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Discussion in 'History Forum' started by KenH, Aug 6, 2005.
Hiroshima, in the words of Enola Gay's bombardier
The mushroom cloud over Hiroshima after Little Boy's explosion.
Once, Larry King saw on older man gazing intently at the Enola Gay at the Smithsonian. He asked the man, "Are you a WW2 vet?" "Yes, I am." "Do you have any regrets that our forces dropped the A-Bomb on Hiroshima?" "Yes, I do." "Please elaborate." "Sure, Mr. King...I regret that we didn't develop and drop that thing 3 years earlier on the #$@&^*# enemy! That woulda saved a lotta lives on both sides!"
My view is the same as one seen on a WW2 poster..."They sowed the wind(Pearl Harbor) and are now reaping the whirlwind".(The incendiary B-29 raids beginning March '45)
Not at all the traditional "conservative" view however:
I've always believed that if forced to fight, then USE ANYMEANS to win. Victory aint the biggest thing...it's the ONLY thing. There is no substitute for VICTORY.
However, as my dad said, you may be bent-for-leather on killing the enemy when he suddenly surrenders. Then, you must instantly go from kill mode to "fair-treatment" mode; if ya go ahead & bust the cap on an enemy who's clearly surrendering, you're committing MURDER, and even if you're not castigated by your nation, ya can't hide it from GOD.
However, while facing an aggressive enemy intent on wasting you, the end justifies any means.
It seems that the counter-liberalism pendulum is swinging to the point where a soldier who kills is thought of as a wimp or liberal if he expresses regret. This concerns me. Soldiers are humans. It is not inappropriate to feel regret for taking a life, even if taking that life was justified.
A soldier should never be belittled because he regretted dropping a bomb or pulling a trigger. A soldier can be regretful or remoreseful over taking the life of an enemy, and still have done the right thing. In fact, I would think this makes him a better soldier than having no regret or remorse at all.
Furthermore, there's nothing wrong with us as a nation showing remorse over dropping the Hiroshima bomb. That doesn't change the fact that it was the right thing to do, given the circumstances. Remorse as a nation only demonstrates that we don't do things like that unless we have no other moral alternative.
I would not necessarily argue against Prof. Bernstein's analysis, but I think the article's author is confusing estimates for total casualties with combat deaths.
The invasion of Okinawa cost Americans 50,000 total casualties, 12,000 of them deaths. (There also were 26,000 non-battle casualties.) If you extrapolate that ratio, given 46,000 combat deaths, you could expect upwards of 300,000 total casualties from an invasion of Japan.
The Japanese had 16 divisions in the home islands, which would have given the Americans no numerical advantage. In addition, the Japanese would have not been as hampered by lack of logistics as they had been elsewhere in the Pacific. (The Japanese also had a huge army in China, although transporting it to Japan would have been problematic given the proficiency of American submariners.)
And, I think, it would be a mistake to think the Japanese would not have fought. The last Japanese soldier in the Philippines didn't surrender until 1974; children were being taught to strap mines on their backs and roll under vehicles.
Strictly on utilitarian lines, you could argue that the bombs did in fact save Japanese lives. (William Manchester, in his biography of MacArthur, argues that the introduction of modern sanitation saved more lives than Americans took in the war.)
I do think it's a shame that the United States is, so far, the only nation to have used nuclear weapons in combat.
As Leo Szilard, a physicist who helped convice Roosevelt to undertake the Manhattan Project, said:
"By and large, governments are guided by considerations of expediency rather than by moral considerations. And this, I think, is a universal law of how governments act.
Prior to the war I had the illusion that up to a point the American Government was different. This illusion was gone after Hiroshima.
Perhaps you remember that in 1939 President Roosevelt warned the belligerents against using bombs against the inhabited cities, and this I thought was perfectly fitting and natural.
Then, during the war, without any explanation, we began to use incendiary bombs against the cities of Japan. This was disturbing to me and it was disturbing many of my friends."
Actually, I consider the incendiary bombing of Japanese cities (and, to an extent) German cities little different from the use of atomic weapons — in fact, the inecendiary raids on Japan produced more casualties.
I certainly have no remorse over dropping the bomb! They are the ones that created the necessity of doing so.
I DO regret that the decision had to be made to drop it due to others actions, but certainly not the action itself.
Surely you aren't saying that you would like to have seen more use of the bomb since then, are you? That's what it sounds like, but that does not seem a reasonable conclusion; please clarify. Thanks
On the other hand you may be saying that you feel it's a shame that we had to use it, and if so then I agree, but that was dictated by others actions; not aggression on our part.
Of the WWII veterans I've known, the topic of the japan's bombings were not a topic of discussion.
I always sensed that it was a very sad event that needed to be done considering the plans Japan had for us.
"Surely you aren't saying that you would like to have seen more use of the bomb since then, are you? That's what it sounds like, but that does not seem a reasonable conclusion; please clarify. Thanks"
Well, I suppose you could interpret it that way, but I do not think that fits the context of what I was saying.
Allied bombing (the atomic bombs and the incendiary raids in particular) lowered the bar of what civilized nations are expected to do in war time, a real breakdown of the distinction between combatants and noncombatants. (I realize it was always a bit fictional, but valuable nonetheless.)
The fact that the U.S. used the weapon, to me, lessens America's moral argument about proliferation, which is in the news almost every day. North Korea and Iran are trying to build bombs and Pakistan is inventing ever-more efficient ways of delivering them.
The U.S. opposes these efforts while maintaining a stockpile of thousands of such weapons. On what grounds do we do this? We (and a few others) can be trusted with nukes; the newcomers can't.
Well, from a historical view, the U.S. is the only one to have actually used them. You might argue that "we learned our lesson" and will not use them again, but you have the awkward fact that we still keep thousands of them for some purpose.
And I still think the firebombing of civilians is an equally egregious violation of the rules of war.
I mostly agree. Most of those who served (that I've met) realized that bad things happen in war and, reasonably, wanted it to be over with. I have talked at length with many WWII veterans and seldom found any deep-seated animosity toward the enemy.
I had the privilege, for example, of interviewing a man who guarded Masaharu Homma when he was tried for war crimes. The American was convinced that Homma was convicted not so much for the atrocities committed by the forces under his command but for the fact that he had made MacArthur look bad.
I would take issue a bit with the last part of your statement. What were the Japanese plans for the U.S.? While Japan had no hesitation invading China (that may be a bit of stretch because the thing was conceived by field grade officers but acquiesed to by the government), in that case it was entering a situation of chaos, emulating the western powers, and facing a culture that was technologically inferior and riven by warlordism.
The Japanese had few illusions about defeating, much less occupying, the U.S. The war was pre-emptive and designed to keep the U.S. (and Britain) from blocking their expansion in Asia and the Pacific.
Unfortunately for them, they allied themselves with the Nazis. Roosevelt decided early on that Germany, not Japan, was the more dangerous enemy and proceeded accordingly, even though Japan had committed the act that brought the U.S. into the war. Hitler's decision to declare war on the U.S. after Pearl Harbor, BTW, was another in the litany of stupid mistakes he made, because it's unclear whether American public opinion would have fully supported a war in Europe at that time.
I would have wished that we dropped the bomb on a strictly military target. Civilians on both sides of a conflict are often forced into a support role against their will. Our incendiary raids in Europe did little to impact either morale or production, but it did kill an awful lot of civilians.
As a veteran, I understand that collateral damage is sometimes unavoidable, but it should be minimized, not elevated into a deliberate strategy. In the long run, it feeds enemy propaganda, and reinforces the will of the enemy.
I think that was a lesson that came from the strategic area bombing of cities in WWII long before the atom bombs were dropped on the Japanese. The British had first hand information about what happens to the morale of the civilian population when civilians become the deliberate victims of strategic area bombing.
The practice of strategic area bombing of cities was a moral debate in the allied world throughout most of the war. It was only after the horrible raids on Dresden, Pforzheim and Wurzburg, Germany, and on Tokyo, that British and American civilians began to question what their respective air forces were doing in their name. After the war, it took a long time for the allied civilians to comprehend what had happened. Because it was closer to the action, and had experienced strategic area bombing itself, the British came to the realization that what started for them as retaliation had turned into an atrocity.
I just don't think the fact that civilians dwelling in an "enemy" country themselves constitute a legitimate target for strategic area bombing. Patriotic support for a regime that dictatorially rules the country is not justification for murdering that country's civilians, nor is retaliation a motive, either. And not all German or Japanese civilians were wholehearted patriots for their respective governments. In Japan, it was an accepted way of life that most civilians did not believe they could change.
The speculation that the justification for the bombs was to bring an earlier end to the war and save the lives of up to a million American soldiers that might be lost in an invasion of the Japanese homeland is incorrect. The fact is, from evidence that has since come to light, the Japanese had realized that further fighting would be futile. It may have taken an additional six weeks to two months, but the end of the war would have come without a US invasion.
Actually, the issue isn't even that complicated. Nuclear weapons are designed for the purpose of creating an area of complete and total destruction of an area, and the complete disruption of any attempts in the immediate aftermath to repair damage and make the area habitable again. There is no way they could be used without massive "collateral" civilian damage. As such, I think it is a sin to even build them, and I can't fathom the thought that someone who would be willing to drop one of them from an airplane would have no regrets over the murder of innocent civilians in such high numbers.
I diasgree. Japan didn't surrender after the first atomic bomb. Japan didn't surrender after Russia joined the war against it. Japan didnt' surrender until several days after the second atomic bomb.
In fact, Japan almost didn't surrender then. What turned out to be the final B-29 mission of the war accidentally stopped a coup to kidnap the emperor and prevent a surrender from taking place.
The History Channel will have a program about this incident on Sunday, August 14th at 5:00 p.m. EDT.
And just what is the basis for this statement?
Seems to me that with their oil imports crippled, their Navy virtually non-existent, and the bulk of their remaining forces essentially stranded on the asian mainland, we could have waited it out. Remember also that their experienced veterans were mostly dead already...
Don't get me wrong, I am NOT a liberal by any means. But there are almost always multiple paths available to defeat a potential enemy without the (suicidal) frontal assault.
The Japanese woulda fought to the death had not the emperor ordered the surrender. The biggest mistake Truman made was listening to his advisors and not indicating at Potsdam that the emperor would be allowed to remain in office under a shogun.
However, I believe that, if foeced to fight, be it a street fight or a war, nothing matters but victory.
However, I believe that, if foeced to fight, be it a street fight or a war, nothing matters but victory.
One must maintain some standards of morality, even in wartime. You seem to imply that anything goes, just as long as we win. Ends justify the means? This is the very argument used by Al Qaeda, in killing innocents all over the world today. You also seem to imply that we could not have won the war without the use of a horrendous device. As I implied, you cannot field an effective military without the economic means to sustain it. It was just a matter of time.
I do agree with your statement concerning the Potsdam conference, however.
What rsr said; the fact that the US is the only country to have used a nuclear device (or two) in anger makes all this sabre-rattling over the proliferation of WMDs more thana tad hypocritical (" We can have 'em and use 'em but no-one else can. Nyanya!")
"No regrets"...unless you happened to be one of the tens of thousands of Japanese civilians, including children, killed (especially slowly and horribly) or maimed by those two bombs. I'm sure they regret it quite a bit.
A "necessary evil" it may have been, but let's not lose the "evil" part for the sake of the "necessary"; let's call evil evil, not good.
Yours in Christ