Sunday, August 07, 2005

Celebrating the Bomb that Ended WWII

On August 6, 1945, the B-29 Superfortress Enola Gay, piloted by Col. Paul Tibbets, dropped the uranium bomb “Little Boy” on Hiroshima. It did exactly what it was supposed to: killed 66,000 people and injured a similar number. Three days later, on August 9, BocksCar dropped the plutonium bomb “Fat Man” on Nagasaki, killing 40,000. The Japanese emperor decided early the next day that Japan would surrender.

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Nowadays the revisionist view that we were unjustified in dropping the bomb is popular, especially in America’s public school system – notwithstanding the fact that it is wrong, as Donald Kagan explained in his brilliant Sept. 1995 Commentary piece.

60th anniversary documentaries tend to show Japan as the victim, ruthlessly attacked by the United States; footage of Japanese seeking medical treatment for horrible radiation burns is played again and again.

Revisionists argue that Japan was on the verge of surrender – even actively seeking to surrender – and that America dropped the bomb anyway, perhaps merely as a show of force to intimidate the Soviets.

Declassified Ultra intercepts from the last days of the war now reveal that Japan had no intention of surrendering unconditionally, and that the Japanese hoped to make a land invasion so costly to the US that we would be forced to settle for peace terms that would have preserved Japan’s militaristic old order.

We now know too that Operation Olympic, the land invasion of Japan, would probably not have gone ahead. As Richard Frank writes in his August 8 Weekly Standard piece, “Why Truman Dropped the Bomb,” this was not because the invasion “was deemed unnecessary, but because it had become unthinkable.” An invasion would simply have cost too much. But of course without an invasion, we’d have been left with no way to the end the war – except for the atomic bomb.

Americans have a natural tendency to feel sorry for people, even bad people. They also have a tendency to forget. We must remember that you win wars by killing the enemy. We must also remember that we were fighting one of the most cruel, brutal, bestial regimes the world had ever known. (See Arnold Brackman’s The Other Nuremberg). The final and total destruction of this regime by means of atomic weapons is an achievement in which Americans can take pride.

The aggressor nation obviously bears the responsibility for the damage it suffers – just as if someone rear-ends you on the highway, the damage to his own car is his fault. If the Japanese were not prepared to accept the consequences of war, they should not have started one.

In a few days, on August 15, we will celebrate the 60th anniversary of VJ day – victory over Japan. We cannot begin to imagine what this day would be like had there been no victory to celebrate. It is easy to say self-righteously in retrospect that ‘we should have found another way to win the war.’ What other way? And how would you explain this to a soldier who would have been ordered to land in the first wave of the invasion that never had to take place? We won the war in the best way we could have – with the fewest American casualties – and that’s a blessing.

28 Comments:

At 12:01 PM, Blogger Matthew said...

Good article Dan!

The Joint Chiefs envisioned that it would take an invasion force of millions to invade Japan.
The military’s’ top brass also estimated it would have cost some 250,000 to 1,000,000 American casualties, plus an equal or greater amount of Japanese casualties, to invade Japan. We must remember that the US suffered some 48,000 casualties on Okinawa facing an army that was a fraction of the size that we would have faced in Japan.

President Truman:

"I asked General Marshall what it would cost in lives to land on the Tokyo plain and other places in Japan. It was his opinion that such an invasion would cost at minimum one quarter of a million casualties, and might cost as much as a million, on the American side alone, with an equal number of the enemy. The other military and naval men present agreed."

 
At 2:11 PM, Blogger Janelle said...

The public school system does indeed make it seem like it Japan was the biggest victim and had done nothing. Even I (with all my knowledge of Donne ;) ), didn't know the full story. It was AP world teacher, who even with her political "don't ask, don't tell" policy was obviously a leftist. Anyways, shes the one who not only explained to the class the situation, but also pretty much made me fall in love with Band of Brothers.

Great piece Dan.

 
At 7:59 PM, Blogger Theorigamist said...

This is terrible. I don't know how anybody can call this a great piece.

I don't even have any problems with dropping the atomic bomb, actually. I just hate your shitty logic. I'll have time later to explain fully. I'm kind of busy now.

But for the record, I grew up in a very liberal town in MA, and I was never taught that Japan was the victim and the US was absolutely in the wrong. I was taught that Japan wouldn't have surrendered, and the bomb was probably the fastest, cheapest way to end the war. It just has the side effect of being extraordinarily easy to use to manipulate emotions. I would like to add, however, that even this fairly neutral (or even Republican Dan-friendly) version of events has its problems. For example, an analogy can be drawn to chemical warfare. Anthrax may be a really quick, cheap way to kill all of your enemies, but the world still considers it a war crime.

 
At 9:23 PM, Blogger Alec Brandon said...

I think the only purpose of this article was to justify the dropping of the atomic bomb. The way this is made into a significant claim is by making up the belief that many think Japan was the victim.

I think you've got it wrong here Dan. There is a huge difference between viewing Japan as the victim and the Japanese as the victim. I personally think that Harry Truman made the correct decision, but that does not mean that I can not feel sorrow for the hundreds of thousands of civilians who died for us to win the war (regardless of the stakes of the war). Whereas some teachers may stress the human toll that came with the decision to drop the atomic bombs, nowhere are they saying that the decision was a bad one or one they would have made differently (and I infact know that YOUR history teacher did not tell you it was a bad decision). Only a regrettable one.

So essentially once you discount the fact that no one really disagrees with the claim, "It was a correct decision to drop the atomic bomb," you really don't tell us anything here.

Great article Dan, you agree with what everyone else does!

Next week: Celebrating Ice Cream!

-Mr. Alec!!

 
At 10:30 PM, Blogger Commander Mike said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 9:20 AM, Blogger allen said...

Mr. Alec wrote:

The way this is made into a significant claim is by making up the belief that many think Japan was the victim.

Oh, you mean like the historical revisionism that poisoned the Enola Gay exhibit at the Smithsonian? Or the long-running efforts to portray the dropping of the bombs as racist, unnecessary or designed to intimidate the Soviet Union at the cost of tens of thousands of Japanese civilians?

"Nobody" seems to have enough influence to slant an important exhibit at the premier, national museum to portray a viciously racist, expansionistic nation that repeatedly invaded neighboring countries and then subjected their populations, as well as military prisoners, to the most brutal treatment, including mass murder, as the victim.

Yeah, I guess "nobody" disagrees with the rationale to drop the bombs and nobody seems to be working tirelessly to rewrite history.

 
At 10:58 AM, Blogger Alec Brandon said...

Allen, you silly silly man. Those that protested the Enola Gay exhibit were not historial revisionists (some were actually Hiroshima survivors). They weren't even trying to say that the dropping of the Atomic bomb was a bad decision. They were just saying, "Whoa, is this something that we should be patting ourselves on the back for."

There is a huge difference between celebrating a terrible thing and agreeing that a terrible thing was the correct decision. I would say you and Dan fall into the former, whereas almost all of the US fall into the latter.

I personally, do not view the Enola Gay or the Atomic Bomb as great symbols of freedom. I tend not to view symbols of death and destruction and positive. If you get all warm and fuzzy thinking about bombs that vaporize hundreds of thousands of civilians, then, well, I am worried for you.

But, just because I don't get a hard on thinking about the Enola Gay, doesn't mean that I disagree with what Truman did. Truman was battling against the Japanese, who would have done the same to us if they had the capability. Not to mention the American lives (and Japanese lives that would have been lost) had the US invaded.

Also, you can claim that the Japanese government was terrible, bestial, suicidal, whatever, but that does not mean that we can morally discount the deaths of the Japanese citizens, many of which had no part in the actions of the Japanese government. Their existence ought to be acknowledged (which is all that the Enola Gay protestors were calling for) and not cast aside because of their government, their way of life, or their crazy food utensils.

-Mr. Alec

 
At 10:59 AM, Blogger Alec Brandon said...

Also Allen, you don't say anything about how anyone has attempted to revise history. You just attempt to mock me a lot.

Cheers!

Mr. Alec

 
At 12:45 PM, Blogger Commander Mike said...

The way to deal with Allen is to ignore him.

The central logic of Dan's piece is that all n-thousand people in Hiroshima were "bad people".

Quote: "Americans have a natural tendency to feel sorry for people, even bad people."

And later: "We won the war in the best way we could have – with the fewest American casualties – and that’s a blessing."

Either Dan is uninformed or he's being stupid on purpose. The underlying assumption is that American lives are intrinsically worth more than Japanese lives.

It's a filthy idea, and only scum would dare to cognify it. If you need any proof that Dan's ideas are completely wrothless, there it is.

 
At 1:23 PM, Blogger Alec Brandon said...

But Mike, to Truman, the decision maker, American lives were worth more than Japanese, as they should have been to him. Had better value our lives more than Japanese, we are the President's soverign.

Truman, though, would not have gone around celebrating the way that the war was won. There is nothing in the manner that we defeated the Japanese that is honorable. It was cold, hard utilitarian calculus and god-bless it. Of course, if Dan is going to start supporting utilitarianism then it would contradict about 20 of his prior stances, such his stance on the trade embargo with Cuba, the opening of relations with China, his call to disband the UN, his belief in the US space program, his stance on Vietnam...etc.

So then, what is your philosophical justification for the dropping of the Atomic bomb Dan, and be careful not to have it contradict everything else you have ever said.

Man you can be such a tool.

-Mr. Alec

 
At 2:43 PM, Blogger allen said...

Commander Mike wrote:

The way to deal with Allen is to ignore him.

There you go, Mr. Alec. Great advice from a guy who can't take it himself.

Chafing a bit at the limitations of the medium are we? Regal disdain not working out quite as well as you'd hoped? Not working out any better then long, pointless, unattributed cut-and-pastes? Here's some advice for you: Don't be a punk and it won't be possible to treat you like one.

The central logic of Dan's piece is that all n-thousand people in Hiroshima were "bad people".

Is that the central logic of the piece? And here I read it and came to the, no doubt erroneous, conclusion that it was about the ugly, hateful historical revisionists who want to portray the Japanese as a friendly, peace-loving people who were beset - for no apparent reason! - by the big, racist bully, the United States.

Well chalk one up for you, Commander Mike for not being put off by the words and seeing the "central logic" of the piece.

Mr. Alec wrote:

Also Allen, you don't say anything about how anyone has attempted to revise history.

Actually, if you read my post, yeah, I do.

You just attempt to mock me a lot.

Well, what goes around comes around. If you don't like being treated like a smug, pompous jerk then don't act like one.

There are, in fact, lots of people who already believe the U.S. is responsible for just about everything bad that's happened in the world from the Cock Robin hit to AIDS. The dropping of the atomic bombs on Japan is often portrayed, with carefully trimmed rhetoric, as an unnecessary, racist act.

Dismissing Dan's piece as being in praise of apple pie and mom is just the kind of snottiness that I find so objectionable along with being factually incorrect.

And just so you don't labor under the misconception that all I do is mock you, a point of agreement.

Commander Mike wrote:

Either Dan is uninformed or he's being stupid on purpose. The underlying assumption is that American lives are intrinsically worth more than Japanese lives.

Ah, I see. You would have FDR and Harry Truman elevate themselves to your refined state of philosophical grace and they would have been able to conduct a war without taking sides or lives. If only they hadn't lived in the real world where decisions have consquences that can't be dismissed with a rhetorical flourish.

By the way, "cognify" isn't a word.

 
At 4:07 PM, Blogger Alec Brandon said...

Allen, you don't say anywhere how people believe that Truman dropping the bomb was a bad decision. Nowhere. You cite how Japanese survivors protested a Smithsonian exhibit that they did not feel adequately acknowledged the toll that the Enola Gay's payload wrought.

Second, you mention that it as considered racist. My first question is, who considers it racist? My second question is, are those who consider the dropping of the atomic bomb racist so large a percentage that they are worth anyones time?

If you did not notice, those were rhetorical questions.

Last, Allen, when I said that you said nothing, I don't think I was far from the truth. If you want to demonstrate that this is actually a contestable claim by Dan, then you have to make the arguements, not allude to a couple of them and throw in some bombast. Having filled in the blanks, your examples hold no weight. Feel free to provide more, but try to actually explain them next time.

-Mr. Alec

PS I wasn't upset that you mocked me, but mocking someone is not an arguement in and of itself.

 
At 4:45 PM, Blogger Commander Mike said...

Allen: I can argue with you.

Or I can say "Straw Man", and everyone with any intelligence will understand what I mean by it.

And it doesn't take a genius or a dictionary to figure out what "cognify" might mean.

 
At 7:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Commander Mike Spewed:
It's a filthy idea, and only scum would dare to cognify it. If you need any proof that Dan's ideas are completely wrothless, there it is.

Ah yes, so 'wrothless' that once again Cmdr. Mike (of what?) has landed to save the day and warn us against the dangers of cognifying Dan's ideas.

Still hoping to get noticed are ye?

- Nate

 
At 12:30 PM, Blogger allen said...

Commander Mike wrote:

Allen: I can argue with you.

Of course you can. You just choose not to because it would dignify my foolishness with your attention.

Or I can say "Straw Man", and everyone with any intelligence will understand what I mean by it.

Ah, the proof of intelligence is in agreeing with you. That is convenient for you.

And it doesn't take a genius or a dictionary to figure out what "cognify" might mean.

Oh, I know what it means. It means your vocabulary doesn't support your presumptions. Does that mean I'm not a dictionary?

Mr. Alec wrote:

Last, Allen, when I said that you said nothing, I don't think I was far from the truth.

Considering the semi-coherent nature of your posts, I'm neither suprised nor dismayed.

 
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At 8:53 AM, Blogger Alec Brandon said...

Allen,

Respond to fucking arguements or make them. I have made plenty. You have not. Stop wasting everyones time.

-Mr. Alec

 
At 11:57 AM, Blogger Mihai said...

Actually, I thought Allen's post was an amusing retort. Sometimes everyone here starts taking themselves a bit too seriously. Alec, on that note, sorry about getting carried away about the Wilson thing.

That said, I haven't really been paying attention, but I don't know of any significant group that's screaming about the atomic bombings being racist, terrorist, or whatever, but I'm convinced that there are a lot of people out there who do. It would be nice to hear some more specific evidence about that.

Anyways, nothing has been said here that justifies the title of the post: "Celebrating the Bomb." It helped win the war, but it did so through the mass killing of civilians (if you don't stop fighting, we can vaporize your wives and children). It may have prevented a far worse fight and far more deaths, but a necessary evil is still an evil.

-Mihai

 
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