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65 Years After Hiroshima: Truman’s Choices

Posted on Aug 6, 2010
AP / U.S. Air Force

Two people walk a cleared path through Hiroshima in September 1945, weeks after the dropping of the first atomic bomb on Aug. 6.

“Stuff happens,” Donald Rumsfeld infamously said to explain why some of his plans in Iraq went awry. But it does not just happen by chance—rather, stuff happens because of conscious, deliberately executed decisions. And sometimes it happens when a decision is made by doing nothing.

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The personalities, the interests and the considerations that propelled the United States’ decision to use the atomic bomb in August 1945 are parts of an interlocking puzzle. The historical reconstruction of events reveals a seemingly inexorable decision to use the weapon. We had made a bomb and successfully tested it in July, and the scientists, generals, politicians and civilians caught up in events readily supplied the accelerating momentum to a decision: “We must use it.” That inexorable force in fact found no resistance among civilian decision-makers anxious to justify the expenditures of unprecedented sums of money to develop a weapon designed to end the war.

The historical narrative of the decision to use the bomb largely derives from the recollections and rationales of President Harry Truman and his civilian and military advisers. For them, the stark choice came down to drop the bomb or sustain a “million” American casualties (with apparently no effort to consider and realize the potential for Japanese civilian casualties) if the planned invasion had been launched. A small number of scientists raised ethical and moral considerations, but their influence was of no immediate consequence. 

President Truman fashioned himself as a decisive man who easily and readily made the decision. “It isn’t polls or public opinion of the moment that counts,” he said in 1954. “It is right and wrong and leadership—men with fortitude, honesty, and a belief in the right that makes epochs in the history of the world.” So Truman described himself and conducted himself as president, and it is how he has generally been perceived.

Later, at his presidential library in Independence, Mo., the president conducted mock press conferences with tour groups, largely composed of schoolchildren, as long as his heath permitted. Invariably, visitors would ask, “Mr. President, what was your hardest decision?” With no hesitation, he barked back, “Korea.” “But Mr. President, what about the atomic bomb?” “Atomic bomb? I used it like I would have used any artillery piece.” Truman’s defensiveness was palpable.


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Were his options so simple, so limited, so stark, and as obvious as he said? Truman learned of the bomb when aides informed him of the successful atomic explosion at Alamogordo, N.M., on July 18. The president and Secretary of War Henry Stimson, who oversaw the wartime Manhattan Project, soon agreed that the bomb would be used against Japan.

Nevertheless, Truman recorded his doubts, his hesitation and his alternatives, at least before Alamogordo. One day earlier, he wrote in his diary: “I have to decide Japanese strategy—shall we invade Japan proper or shall we bomb and blockade? That is my hardest decision to date. But I’ll make it when I have all the facts.” The successful test raised a wholly new fact.

We now realize how effectively the aerial bombardment and naval blockade had thwarted the Japanese military capacity. But did—or could—Truman have all the statistical evidence compiled since the end of the war? The claims of triumphant American air and naval commanders offered some clear signs. So, what happened to the option Truman had in mind until Alamogordo? Did the successful test of that day erase the more complicated options he had laid out the day before? Apparently.

Gen. Curtis LeMay was well into his career of bombing civilians back to the Stone Age. The Air Force was not yet independent, but as the war neared its end, concepts of strategic bombing accelerated, resulting in the creation of the U.S. Strategic Air Force in the Pacific, with LeMay in command. B-29 firebombing raids, pushed by LeMay, decimated industrial production, with more than 60 cities largely destroyed. The infamous Tokyo fire raids in March killed more than 100,000 Japanese. Additionally, “Operation Starvation” laid down explosive mines in the inland waterways and coastal routes, effectively disrupting Japanese internal shipping.

Japan lost nearly all of the 117,000 troops defending Okinawa in June; after that, kamikaze attacks on American naval vessels abated. American submarines effectively halted all shipping of men and supplies from the remaining Japanese garrisons in Manchuria and Formosa. We had “collateral damage,” as thousands of American POWs were killed in the attacks on Japanese shipping. After the Battle of the Philippine Sea in 1944, the once-formidable Japanese fleet was no more, except for some vessels tethered in home ports. War planners realized the diminished Japanese military and industrial capacity they faced; yet, they persisted in a belief that Japanese civilians would fanatically resist and die for their emperor (“120 million hearts beating as one”), while we would suffer estimated casualties of 1 million. (John Ray Skates in his book “Invasion of Japan” details the invasion plans while recognizing the complete devastation of Japan.)

The aerial assault and the naval blockade kept the Pacific commanders busy, of course. But civilian and military planners simultaneously made final tweaks on the elaborate plans for “Operation Downfall,” the planned invasion of Japan. Those plans, of course, were put on hold, and ultimately shelved altogether.

Discussions of the dropping of the bomb rarely raise the effects and potential of the bombing and naval blockade. Were they sufficient? Would they have brought Japan to surrender? When? Did those advocating such alternatives have any voice in the bureaucratic policy considerations? Unfortunately, this is a typical kind of decision-making process that history usually ignores or obscures.

Determining the evaporation of the choice for maintaining the blockade and conventional bombing to break the Japanese will is an elusive problem. Today, it is common wisdom that Truman had only two simple, stark choices: to use the bomb or invade and suffer a “million” casualties. The options of naval blockade and “conventional” bombing quickly dissolved, and over time they have disappeared. Drift and inertia account in part for some of the flow of events as the decision to use the bomb took on a force of its own, with the tragic results of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Stanley Kutler is the author of the “Wars of Watergate” and other writings.

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By ofersince72, August 7, 2010 at 2:28 pm Link to this comment

the International Investors have there historians
then write…history…make sure it is coming from their
revered historians from their chosen institutions.

  And they write things like…..

“It doesn’t really matter that we slew the whole AZTEC
RACE,  they all were going to commit mass sucide

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By ofersince72, August 7, 2010 at 2:21 pm Link to this comment

I believe everyone on these threads agree, and one
would have to be an idiot not to see the the
MILITARY INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX,  controls our employment,
economy, foreign policy, and our governance.


  They get rich, dole out a few crumbs, keep NATIONALIZM
controlling thought, send our sons an daughters off toting
The ones that don’t go there,
Go to these idioitic IVY LEAGUE schools set up by
tricks of the trade for controll…..........

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By ofersince72, August 7, 2010 at 2:09 pm Link to this comment

Did anyone ever investigate what the “OPEN DOOR”
policy was all about,  or still go by “textbook version”?

Or how about how the United States and Japan were
sparing for dominance in China all through the
1920s and the 1930s well before WWII even started.

And knowing of all these tensions in China, that they
even had military skirmash at times,  the United States
still was selling war material to Japan right up until
hostilities broke out in WWII. That is not a question
to anyone.

Or has anyone seen the Great Documentary done by
the BBC how both Japan and the United States set up
Pearl Harbor TOGETHER!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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By randyjet, August 7, 2010 at 1:19 pm Link to this comment

I like Andy Rooney, and I’m sure most have seen him on 60 Minutes, but you should read his book on his WWII experiences as a Stars and Stripes war correspondent. In it he recounts his visit to one of the recently liberated concentration camps. It was a moving horrifying experience to say the least. He was a draftee and not impressed with being in the military and at war. As he said, he thought as one of his college profs who said that"There is no such thing as a good war or a bad peace”  After that sight and smell, he knew at that moment his professor was a LIAR!

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By balkas, August 7, 2010 at 1:09 pm Link to this comment

I condemn atom bombing hiroshima and nagasaki on a principle and not on reasons.

The principle i use in my thinking emanates from the fact that there is no truth [or truth-justice in nature] to that event nor all others—there is a neverending number of truths; in principle, one for each person.

And the principle arising from that fact is that since we do not know the truth [or justice], we chose to err, if we indeed would err, on side of not killing people.

Nature is infinitely valued; we are part of that nature; thus what we do is as natural as floods, earthquakes, cancer, etc.

But one does not think of cancer or hurricane as just or unjust right or wrong—one chooses to protect oneself and tries to stay alive whatever the universal truth-justice may be.

With such a principle in mind one does not forever justify or condemn wars of aggression, wagings creation for poverty, fears, angst, lies, etc., one ensures that people do not drown in floods or get killed by other people.

It goes without saying that the part of nature called “creme de la creme” has rejected this principle; probably 10 k yrs ago.
And a living hell descended upon us just because of
this event.

Expect even greater horrors from it!

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By randyjet, August 7, 2010 at 1:08 pm Link to this comment

Thank you felicity for that personal account. I am amazed at the fools on this site who think that all sides were the same in WII and all were as guilty. We would NOT be having this discussion had the war turned out differently, other than in prison or not at all since we would have been executed.

I lived in San Bruno for awhile and I flew out of OAK for a few years as a pilot. There was a flight training school in the Bay area that trained both Japanese and Chinese flight student at one base in the 90s. They had to move the Chinesee students to Redding because they had a riot between the Japanese and Chinese students over the hatred bred from WWII and the Japanese atrocities. The Japanse thought that their country was blameless and a victim. The Chinese took strong exception to that view. Though I think a good number of folks here would be in sympathy with the Japanese if they accused the US of starting WWII and war crimes.

It may be ideologically comforting, but they are NOT entitled to their own facts. They can have their opinions but so far nobody has bother to address the facts that I have pointed out. They simply choose to ignore inconvenient truths.

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By ofersince72, August 7, 2010 at 1:04 pm Link to this comment

I love the saying that has been around for about a
decade now..

“Well,  we live in Global Market now, you have to adjust.”

just what the fuck was Marco Polo doing:??
or Cris Columbus?  or Cortez,  or Pizzaro?


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By ofersince72, August 7, 2010 at 12:50 pm Link to this comment

And whatever country that the

INTERNATIONAL INVERSTORS decide that they want to

call the winners,  gets for having their name pulled
out of a hat, 

that country is allowed to make up just what warrents
a war crime. The have “courts” to take war criminals
from just one country to justice.
And they are also the country that gets to proclaim,
“looky, looky….we just punished ALL THE WAR CRIMINALS.”

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By felicity, August 7, 2010 at 12:47 pm Link to this comment

randyjet - I’m a native San Franciscan who as a child
wore, even to bed, an identification tag around my neck
with my name, address and phone no. on it so in case I
got killed in an enemy attack, my parents could be

I remember my father’s face when news of the attack on
Pearl came over the radio.  Ashen, pretty well
describes it. At the time, it was a foregone conclusion
that the city would be bombed, a conclusion that lasted
right up to the end.

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By ofersince72, August 7, 2010 at 12:30 pm Link to this comment

right now, since Democrats are in control, its called


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By randyjet, August 7, 2010 at 12:29 pm Link to this comment

I have to laugh at some of the responses they are so absurd. The person has obviously NEVER BEEN to San Francisco since it was most certainly a military target quite legitimately with the Presido, the Golden gate, Alcatrez, Angel Island, Treasure Island, Alameda NAS, San Francisco and Oakland naval port, Concord, Hamilton AFB, Travis AFB, Port Chicago, and more than I can recall. The area of SF devoted to military ops was HUGE! Probably more than Hiroshima in fact.

The million casualties is what the estimate was which is NOT deaths by the way. This was extrapolated from our experience on Okinawa and Iwo Jima. It was a very realistic estimate too since we later found out the Japanese had correctly figured out where we were going to land. The invasion was NOT a possibility, it was a FACT and well on its way to taking place.

Being defeated and surrendering are two different things. There is no question that Japan posed no military threat to the US well before the US invaded Okinawa, but that did NOT stop the carnage, nor did it cause the Japanese to surrender. The US had learned the lesson of WWI when we did not occupy and dismantle Germany and completely overthrow the whole state apparatus. It was even MORE important in a country like Japan to do that. Thus there could be NO rationally negotiated peace that would assure Japan would not return to its bad old ways. Thus the invasion HAD to take place. It is ONLY boots on the ground controlling the country which made possible a peaceful Japan of today.

As for the moral credibility and the use of bombing in civilian areas. The fact is that the US warned the Japanese civilians to get out of certain cities which they listed as targets for destruction by mass bombing. The US DID warn the civilians of the destruction that was coming even though it did not mention the A bomb. Even Truman warned obliquely about the A bomb in the Potsdam declaration. I can think of NO other country which did this in WWII. If you chose to stay next to an anti-aircraft gun during a bombing raid, you have NO grounds to complain about getting bombed.

The US did NOT lose any moral standing at all. The only thing that was a problem is the correct appreciation by Oppenheimer that using the bomb would lower the threshhold for its future use. THAT is about the extent of valid criticism of the bombing.

The FACT is that the USAAF did its best to hit only military targets, but given the technology of the time that was almost impossible in built up areas. I am amazed that the USAF has finally gotten its dream of precision bombing in place with our new technology. It makes little military sense to waste bombs on less valuable targets.  The recent wars the US has been involved in have done FAR better in keeping civilians out of harms way. I am damned tired of the slanders that are made in that regards.

As long as you have war, there will be innocent and unintentional casualties. There have been lots of even Generals being shot accidentally by their own side. So I don’t think it is unreasonable to expect that civilians and lower ranks will suffer as well. In comparison to all the other warring parties, the US stands out as the one military which did FAR better than ANY of the others in trying to minimize needless casualties.

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By ofersince72, August 7, 2010 at 12:27 pm Link to this comment

Textbook history ought to be called


  “Well, I will spin this lie from the “progressive”
  side of the lie.” “Because I am a “DO GOODER”
  and believe the slaves have a right to their gettos”

  “Oh no,  you are wrong “DO GOODER”,  the slaves are
  slaves because they want to be slaves, us conservatives
  know this, we worked really hard waiting for our
  parents to die and inherit this wealth.  We know what
  the slaves want and what is best for them dumb
  “do gooder”

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By felicity, August 7, 2010 at 11:55 am Link to this comment

First off, most of these posts agree that the
dropping of the bombs was a war crime.  ALL wars are
crimes. We’re simply arguing whether that crime was
murder in the first degree, second degree,
manslaughter, self-defense…Pretty pitiful.

People who start wars don’t get to decide how they
end.  If they did, perhaps they wouldn’t start them
in the first place.  Quoting that (ToraToraTora
movie) Japanese admiral following the bombing of
Pearl (not a total wipe-out of the American fleet as
planned) “I’m afraid we’ve merely wakened a sleeping
giant.”  He had a clue how it would end.

It should also be noted that more civilians die in
wars than military personnel.  Military types count
on it.

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Not One More!'s avatar

By Not One More!, August 7, 2010 at 11:55 am Link to this comment

Isn’t it convenient that whenever the US bombs civilians it isn’t questioned by our society or mainstream media, yet when our towers were attacked, it was clearly terrorism.

The US has a long history of targeting civilians indiscreetly and intentionally, calling it collateral damage.

There are too many writers even on this site that still make the claim that US force is justified in the middle east for whatever exaggerated excuse they use. And the countless civilians deaths and major disruptions are conveniently marginalized.

President Obama has joined the ranks of war criminals, yet his apologists still insist that he is different from Bush is spite of carrying out the same policies.

Just like Truman who could have targeted a strictly military target and gotten the same result, chose intentionally to inflict pain and suffering on civilians. Israel didn’t start that policy.


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By Paolo, August 7, 2010 at 11:47 am Link to this comment

The criminal act of bombing Hiroshima was founded on lies from the very first day, when the war criminal Truman announced that the uranium bomb had been used on a “Hiroshima, a military base.”

Hiroshima was about as much a military base as San Francisco.

Then, the fantasy number of “one million American casualties” was invented out of thin air. Even if the US had chosen, foolishly, to mount a full-scale invasion of Japan (rather than just come to terms of settlement and surrender with a beaten foe), it is unlikely a million would have died. Keep in mind that, in the ENTIRE COURSE OF THE WAR, in all theaters, the US lost fewer than a third that number.

As a libertarian, I am impressed with the constant need of governments to put forth brazen lies to justify their crimes.

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By gerard, August 7, 2010 at 11:47 am Link to this comment

RANDYJET:  Interesting, your statement and the use of the word “scintilla”!

“So far the only objection to the use of the A bombs that has a scintilla of sense or fact, is that once we used them, it would make it more acceptable for others to do likewise.” You seem to be saying: The entire national struggle to come to terms with atomic war has no basis in fact except that in using The Bomb, the US utterly destroyed our valuable moral cred.

Sorry, but the agonizing death of tens of thousands is a fact. The lifelong lingering of post-atomic sicknesses and deformities suffered by tens of thousands is a fact.  The knowledge that Japan was already defeated is a fact.

Most interesting of all is that word “scintilla” coming into the picture.  Dict. scintilla, a minute trace. Scintillation counter, a device employing scintillation for detecting and measuring radioactivity.

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By "G"utless "W"itless Hitler, August 7, 2010 at 11:25 am Link to this comment


Japan was the overt aggressor.  It’s very easy for a nonAmerican to look upon the calculus of the deed dispassionately.  But suppose some criminal organization had attacked and killed a member of your family.  Suppose that in order to prevent them from doing so again, you had to decide whether or not you should rub out all of them or just go after the specific perps, suspecting with good reason all along that every member of the organization could be motivated to retribution.  Would you take the high road and risk the safety of your family? Or would you kill them all. 

p.s.  If you chose the former, then you’re either a liar or a worm.

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By ofersince72, August 7, 2010 at 10:27 am Link to this comment

First the myth that WWII was a war of necessity
needs to be dispelled, this is lacking in this conversation.

  While Hitler was dispicable person,  blaming WWII
totally on Germany is just another distortion of history.
The causes and the players

Just another game by the Inernational Investors.
Great Briton is just as responsibe, Russia, the United
States and a few others, all manipulated.
It wasn’t the United States “Good War”  at all.

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By randyjet, August 7, 2010 at 10:13 am Link to this comment

So far the only objection to the use of the A bombs that has a scintilla of sense or fact, is that once we used them, it would make it more acceptable for others to do likewise. The whole history of the Cold War bears this out, despite the illogic of MAD. Oppenheimer knew this at the outset and he STILL voted for their use. He tried unsuccessfully to limit that tendency and paid the price for his rational approach to national security in post WWII defense. The death of Stalin made a nuclear limitation treaty with the Soviets a more rational possibility at the time since the Soviets did NOT have the H bomb at the time.

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By donquijoterocket, August 7, 2010 at 9:44 am Link to this comment

Atilla what do you say to those of us who were in a position to be in one of those coffins you were chasing and still find the action unnecessary for a variety of reasons?I’d implore you to think on the maxim you invoke at the end of your post.Until such time as you’ve actually been in combat you have no idea of the attitudes of those who were.
I’d agree with the general principle of sparing as many of our countrymen as possible but don’t in this instance feel the use of nukes was necessary to achieve that end.It also made the further use by any other possessor of such weapons more possible if not, in their mind,  more permissible and that effect remains to this day.

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By randyjet, August 7, 2010 at 9:21 am Link to this comment

I have no particular objection to sending a US representative to the ceremonies for Hiroshima, but I would hope that next year we will refuse to go unless the Japanese send a representative to Shanghi, Nanking, and other places in which the Japanese committed genocidal acts and work to reconcile with those victims relatives. The Japanese have STILL not owned up to their atrocities that FAR exceeded the horror of the A bombs and had FAR less excuse.

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By "G"utless "W"itless Hitler, August 7, 2010 at 9:17 am Link to this comment


My name is satire.  Try to keep up.

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By "G"utless "W"itless Hitler, August 7, 2010 at 9:10 am Link to this comment


You’re obviously not American or Japanese so your opinion of the subject is pretty much worthless.

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By kkg, August 7, 2010 at 8:44 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Terror or installing terror into the enemy has been a historical tactic for centuries. Such a tactic of warfare has always been used to defeat an enemy, regardless of whom the enemy is.

If you study warfare going back through the ages you will discover beheading’s, burning of entire cities and other tactics.  They are not done by some random action, it is a military choice.  And an effective military choice at that.

Having the Atomic Bomb and not using is a military disaster.  The threat of use carries no wait to the world unless they believe you will use it. 

It’s like a home invasion in which the robber or invaded party is faced with a person who has a gun.  If they believe the person is likely to use the gun, they will decide very carefully what to do next.  If they know the person with a gun will never use it, the gun no longer has the power it is capable of inflicting.  and the person being robbed, or doing the robbing will dismiss the threat and act accordingly.

The Atomic Bomb certainly could have been used as a threat with the testing films etc. but even then at the time, the true results where not completely known.

Would the threat of its use been enough to bring about the desired change?  History does not know.

But it’s use did.

The shockwaves of those bombings influenced much more than the stoppage of the war.  For decades since—the avoidance of using nuclear weapons, having seen the destruction an Atomic bomb can cause - has even been the roots of peace activists, it has been the protection of allowing the use of such weapons on a worldwide basis - it has even been used to sway public opinion in the election of Presidents and other public officials within the United States.

It’s use had sweeping worldwide effects on wars to follow, political power, human rights, and much more.

The use or non use of the Atomic Bomb was never a question, it would be used, in some way - by someone. If not the US at that time, than in another time, or by another country, or activist group.

I am not an advocate of War, I’ve protested against wars, protested against the use of Nuclear power plants in the US etc.  But I am also not naive. war includes terror, and has casualties, and consequences - you fight to win (regardless of the side you are on).

I am against wars that are started before all other venues of effort and reasonable action have not yet been taken.  But once into a war, morality and immorality are no longer issues.  War is what it is, so long as efforts are made not to go to war, then anything that follows—follows.

I can not judge if the dropping of the Atomic Bomb was justified or not at the time, what I do believe is it had the desired effect. It had the effect of not wanting to be used again - and I know that had we not dropped them, someone else would have and the effects of that is completely unknown.

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By randyjet, August 7, 2010 at 8:27 am Link to this comment

This article has many errors of fact to enhance the rather infamous viewpoint that the US of the A bomb was simply an attempt to impress the Soviets and a racist attack. First off Truman learned of the A bomb shortly after becoming President, NOT after the Trinity test. It is such an egregious error that the author makes other statements in the article showing the error. This is the kind of thing I expect from the right wing.

The fact is that Truman set-up a commission to give advice on when, where and IF to use the bomb. Their conclusion and recommendation was what Truman finally did. I also need to point out that Oppenheimer was for the bombings as they were conducted. He was probably the most brilliant, and rational person on that commission and one who had the most knowledge on its effects. He was also privy to all the objections from some of the Project scientists and had considered their argument. Too bad all those who slander Truman like to forget this fact. It is also a slander to state that the bomb would not be used on Germans. Such people forget that it was the ardent desire of all the scientists to use it on the Nazis simce many of them had personally suffered from them. There are NO such misgivings cited from those who were against using the bomb against Japan, indeed they make NO mention at ALL of any such scrupples when it came to the Germans. The only reason Berlin did not get bombed was that Germany fell before the bomb was ready, much to the regret of all involved.

There were over 2.5 million Japanese troops still armed and ready in Japan itself. All of our experience with them in the islands showed that they would starve, commit suicide charges, and in no case would they surrender. The fact is that the US Navy suffered its worst catastrophe in Okinawa because of the kamakazi attacks which severly damaged or destroyed over 180 US warships in nearly 2000 attacking planes. The actual scale of the damage was a closely held secret in the Pentagon and most commanders and officials had NO idea its scope. The Japanese had enough stocks of fuel, planes, and men to make Okinawa look like a cakewalk. The people who say the Japanese would have surrendered without the use of the bombs are simply wrong. The casualty figures that were estimated were on the mark.

The invasion of the main islands was to begin a scant two and a half months after the bombs fell. The entry of the Soviet Union into the war was a main point of the Yalta conference since FDR had NO idea if the A bombs would even exist in time for use in the war. Stalin lived up to his promise to join the war against Japan right on schedule as was decided at Yalta, NOT at Potsdam. The Soviets were critical in making sure the 4 million IJA troops would STAY in China and not be brought back to Japan.

The arguments also ignore the Privy Seal Diaries which have been made public and it verifies the fact that Japan was NOT willing to surrender even after the conditions that they had set for it transpired.  Even after all the disasters such as the loss of Okinawa, fire bombings, the entry of the Soviet Union into the war, and the two A bombs being dropped, the cabinet STILL would not agree to the Potsdam declaration! THAT does NOT show a likelihood of Japan surrendering. It finally took the Emperor doing the extreme step of giving his order that they agreed to surrender. Even then the fanatics still tried to stage a coup to prevent it. THAT is NOT a nation ready to give up and avoid the invasion.

It is also a lie that the US allowed the Emperor to remain as head of Japan. The US simply stated he would be like any other citizen and be subject to McArthur’s orders and authority. The fact is that the US was seriously considering putting Hirohito on trial for war crimes. That was only squelched by McArthur order, NOT because of US acceptance of Japan’s conditions. That the Emperor remained is an after surrender decision of McArthur’s.

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By DaveZx3, August 7, 2010 at 8:01 am Link to this comment

I want to make it clear that I am not in favor of war, by any stretch.  And my earlier comments were not intended in any way to justify the killing of civilians, or anyone else, for any reason. 

My comments were more intended to state that when outrageous atrocities and unrelenting bombing campaigns are being waged against civilians such as the German Blitz against London in 1941 and the bombing of Chongqing from 1939 to 1943 by the Japanese, these acts demonstrated that these powers considered civilians to be legitimate targets, and set the tone for how to counter attack and defend against this activity. 

It is impossible to reasonably discuss the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings outside of this context, and this is not to justify those bombings, but to better understand the context in which the decision was made. 

When I look at the photos of the absolute brutality brought against civilian populations, especially by the Japanese, I am not going to criticize Truman for using the A bomb. 

All the anger being displayed today is reminiscent of the anger which ignited WWII.  And similar atrocities and genocides are being committed today in small numbers and in large numbers virtually all around the world.

It is a condition of man, that he has this capacity to bring these levels of destruction, murder, and outrageously inhumane activity against those he hates, uses or envies.  And it never ceases.  It goes on day and night, every instant someone is being brutalized somewhere.  It is a fact.

And it is not the exclusive domain of the white man or the American.  If anything, Americans are much, much less vicious than most. 

It is time to stop laying all the blame on America.  If man can be cured of the evil that lives within him, tell us how.  Otherwise, quit this unilateral blaming.  It is of no help, obviously, for nothing changes, ever. 

Atrocities have been around as long as man has, they didn’t start in 1776, and they didn’t start with the industrial revolution or the church.  One of the first acts recorded in the Bible was the murder of Abel by his brother. 

This is not to justify, but to question why there is no talk of a solution to this condition of man.

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By grandpaw, August 7, 2010 at 6:57 am Link to this comment

Jeff:  “I also wonder aloud why so many of those commenting prefer to speak from behind noms-de-internet instead of using their own names.  Is this out of fear that those piloting the Black Helicopters would chase them down if their real names were used, or because it is always easier to insult and otherwise demean from anonymity? “

Jeff, the fact that your name is Jeff Kamen rather than grandpaw means nothing to me and adds nothing meaningful to your post.  Nor would it be any more so if you were to provide your address and phone number, something I don’t think anyone recommends for the same reason that many prefer to post under a username.  I think it is best to judge a post on its merits rather than on the way a poster chooses to identify himself.

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By JeffKamen, August 7, 2010 at 6:42 am Link to this comment

Good Morning:
It is a privilege to be involved in the lively give and take on this issue.
It is my own belief that engaging in ad homina cheapens the debate, but when
facts are plucked from thin air and assertions are based on those utterly untrue
declarations, it seems appropriate to speak up to make sure those who have
not had the same opportunities to study some of these matters on location do
not get get misled.  Credibility is crucial. So for now these 3 small but
perhaps telling historical notes:
1.  The US was not racing the Russians to Germany to get America’s hands on radar, because radar was invented by a Brit, Sir Robert Watson Watt and it was his
invention that gave the allies the ability to fly through previously impenetrable weather to deliver bombs onto targets in Germany—even at night.
2. The race to Germany by the OSS (forerunner of the CIA which was created by Congress in 1947 along with the Defense Department and the Air Force) mostly in an effort to capture the collection of geniuses whose math and physics made possible the German rocket program which almost defeated Britain and was close to being able to strike at US east coast cities.  The OSS’s stunning success in scooping up most of the German rocket scientists made possible NASAs entire first chapters of success in space and permitted the US to catch up quickly with the Soviets who stole the march on putting satellites, dogs and people into orbit.
3.  The US intelligence services were modeled not any anything German, but
on the British Secret Intelligence Services (MI6 (foreign) and MI5 (domestic).

I also wonder aloud why so many of those commenting prefer to speak from behind noms-de-internet instead of using their own names.  Is this out of fear that those piloting the Black Helicopters would chase them down if their real names were used, or because it is always easier to insult and otherwise demean from anonymity?

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By grandpaw, August 7, 2010 at 6:23 am Link to this comment

Perhaps those who say that killing thousands of innocent people is justified will be able to convince the military that they are right and it is wrong.  Just about all of the prominent military leaders involved in WWII who spoke out about the atom bomb said it was the wrong thing to do.  After first getting on the wrong track in Iraq, the military has come to strongly recognize more than ever that killing civilians can result in the death of more Americans.  Yes, it is sometimes unavoidable, just as is the death of some Americans, but in both instances it should be kept to a minimum, not just for the sake of the civilians, but also for the sake of the soldiers.  We, most people, and certainly the military, recognize that the only kind of victory that might be possible in Iraq and Afghanistan is a political one, and you do not advance the cause of a political victory by killing the supposed beneficiaries of a political victory.

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By Big B, August 7, 2010 at 6:06 am Link to this comment

First, to all our warmongers out there, is there no atrocity to great to commit in the name of our “freedom”? I had a youth preacher in the late 60’s that explained Vietnam like this, “you cannot do evil while fighting evil, for you then become evil yourself” How many american lives did the many “mai lai” massacres save?

The circumstances surrounding the end of WWII are interesting to history buffs. When we dropped the big ones on the japs, we were metaphorically dropping them on the Russkies. It is not mentioned often enough how the war in Europe was effected by the Russian victory on the eastern front. We (the rest of the allies) rushed to put together the invasion of Italy and the D-Day landing because we were worried, not about German attrocities, or Fascism, but that the Russkies might beat us to Berlin and capture all those high tech tools of war that the krauts had developed (you know, atomic tech, ICBM’s, jet aircraft, genetics, radar) We had to make sure that the “red menace” did not get there hands on these and other goodies (like the SS officers we stole to start our newly formed intelligence infrastucture)

Lets face it, the war in the Pacific was started at the behest of the Germans to draw our attention away from Europe and give the Germans a chance to defeat the Russians before we became fully involved (read a book or folks) Admiral Yamoto thought it was to early for Japan to attack the US, knowing that they would need a much larger Navy to compete in the theater (also knowing that the US had been preparing for war since the late 1930’s and had a brand new navy sitting in dry dock waiting to be dropped into the ocean) Let’s face it, after the battle of Midway, the war in the pacific was just a matter of places and dates (not to the grunts that were dying in the ridicules “island hopping” campaign of course, but hey, war is rough business)

Which brings us to the Bomb. Of course it was going to be used, we had spent nearly 2 billion dollars on it, stolen some of the best scientists from around the world to develope it. And of course, to scare the red menace. It was ultimately, the largest chemical experiment ever conducted. While it was successful, it was also immoral, but so was auswitz, stalingrad, manchuria, manzanar and oak ridge (were we experimented on the retarded and infirmed)

Which takes me back to my original point, you cannot do evil to fight evil. We still have not learned that lesson. The one ironic think about Hiroshima and Nagasaki is of course, has the dropping of the first two bombs and their subsequent effects help prevent the use of nuclear weapons since? Just food for thought.

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By DaveZx3, August 7, 2010 at 5:52 am Link to this comment

By C.Curtis.Dillon, August 7 at 6:24 am

“And arguing that destroying thousands of civilians is OK just so a few soldiers are saved is also morally unsupportable”

You can only make such naive statements because you must be unaware of the totally outrageous atrocities and genocides carried out against civilians by Japanese imperialism in the 19th and early 20th century right up to the Nagasaki and Hiroshama bombings and the defeat of Imperialist Japan.

Japan was far, far worse than Germany in their atrocites and in the numbers of civilians killed.  Like the Jewish Holocaust, there are now a lot of deniers of the Asian Holocaust, but I had the opportunity to view a photo collection from late 1930’s China, where Japanese soldiers were treating the execution of Chinese civilians like sporting events, with prizes given to the soldier who could behead the most.  Japanese civilians were complicit, because the events were covered by the Japanese media, and the photos I saw were taken by a Japanese journalist.

It is a total error to imply that Japanese civilians were not a part of the Japanese imperialist war machine of this era.  Civilians shared a great deal of the guilt for these atrocities, because evidence shows the truth of these horrible acts were all very much out in the open, as there was a very large international press contingent in China at the time.  The myth of the “innocent civilian” is slightly exaggerated. 

Anyway, I guess the Chinese peasants were of no great value in the eyes of the world, so no one came to their defense.  Hitler was killing Europeans and Jews, so he got all the press in the western media.

It is definitely reasonable to say that the less than 200K dead from the A bombs very well could have saved many more times that in civilians and soldiers alike, depending on how long they would allow Japan’s acts to cointinue. 

Truman did the right thing.  He stopped the Japanese war,rape and butchery machine dead in its tracks and saved arguably a million semi-innocent civilians and soldiers from many different lands.

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By morgan 1, August 7, 2010 at 5:06 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

This article is misleading:Use the bomb, or not to use the bomb. There were other options and historical documents show this. Japan had been trying for weeks to work out a surrender—The war was lost and they wanted the conflict over. What the military and Truman demanded was total capitulation and that was not something Japan desired. This discussion became a stalemate—There was no intent to invade as that would be costly for the U.S., but the military did not want to wait out the Japanese as the blockade was working and Japan was surrounded. The dropping of the bombs was to send a message to Russia and China that “we have the power and will not be intimidated by anyone” It wasn’t about revenge. The inventors, Truman, the MIC drooled at the mouth to see what the effects of these weapons would be on the population and cities. Truman was no GD hero. He was a sadist. He wasn’t regretful about any of it, and he should have been. This BS about all being fair in love and war is just that.

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By C.Curtis.Dillon, August 7, 2010 at 2:24 am Link to this comment

Unfortunately, although this has been a spirited discussion, we do not have the ability to project what would have happened had Truman taken another tact.  He dropped the bombs and we now have the subsequent history based on that decision.  We are arguing semantics about any other course of action.

I was told that General Grove had specifically requested that several Japanese cities not be carpet bombed so the army could accurately measure the effects of the two bombs.  The two cities selected had little military significance so the bombs were for psychological effect and ‘research’.  And there were 2 bombs because they were of different designs.  The first was a uranium weapon while the second was of plutonium.  Obviously both were dropped to see which was better.

As for some arguments about using the bomb, I always fall back on the simple question ... of what use is the weapon?  Most weapons have distinct military applications and their use can be justified.  Atomic weapons (along with some biological and chemical systems) are not in this category.  Maybe one can argue that a tactical nuke can be used against an armada or on the battle field but it is impossible to argue that a weapon which destroys an entire city has any valid use other than to destroy civilian targets and to spread terror.  As such, this type of weapon is immoral and constitutes a war crime.

And arguing that destroying thousands of civilians is OK just so a few soldiers are saved is also morally unsupportable.  Just because they do these things is not justification for us following suit.  Tit for tat is not a good way to justify your behavior.  “He did it so why can’t I” just means you are no better than he is.

Personally I think the decision was wrong.  Why?  Because the underlying reasons were not morally supportable.  Grove was on an ego trip.  And others wanted to send a message to Stalin.  Maybe a few thought the war would end faster but there is no compelling support for that belief.  I think we just hated Japan and their people and this was emotional payback for Pearl Harbor and other atrocities.  Terrible reasons for what we did.  There were other ways to end the conflict which would have been ‘cleaner’.

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By DaveZx3, August 7, 2010 at 1:22 am Link to this comment

It was a good decision by Truman to use the A bomb against Japan.

During the late 30’s, early 40’s Japanese invasion of China, Japan had killed around 20 million Chinese civilians.  The atrocities committed by the Japanese during this period are well documented. 

The Japanese imperial war effort averaged killing more people per month than the total Japanese deaths in Nagasaki and Hiroshima.

To state that Nagasaki and Hiroshima are somehow immoral or war crimes, is very, very naive. 

It is absurd to think that the US should have continued with conventional warfare against a Japan which was continuing their bloody war throughout the Pacific, and conspiring with others, including Russia, against the US, in the hopes of finding a way to still be victorious.

Quoting high ranking military members as being against the use of the A bomb is quite disingenuous.  From a military standpoint, dropping a nuclear weapon is not a military victory, but a scientific victory.  The generals get no credit, no promotions and no medals for dropping a nuclear bomb.  Using nuclear weapons is not a military matter or decision.  What they think is irrelevent.

Truman’s decision was the best that could be made, given the circumstances. 

It is not less evil to kill 100 people a day for 30 years than it is to kill 1/4 million people in one minute to save 1/2 million people in the long run. 

We all agree that killing and war are evil, so quit being selectively judgemental, as though some ways of killing are better than others. 

To those who think Truman’s decision was racial or political, you are morons.  And to those who say Japan was going to surrender soon, I say, “how soon is soon?”  They were killing thousands per week, so any delay would be pretty significant.

Why do the America haters condemn the bomb without condemning the Japanese atrocities?  What purpose does that serve?

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By L2k4FC, August 7, 2010 at 12:31 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

You know what I think about when people talk about war and dropping nuclear bombs and whether war is right or wrong or certain tactics are justified or immoral and who was justified vs who wasn’t and what could have been or what might be, etc…etc…........Crickets…..can ya hear em’?  I can….deep thoughts.

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By Mike3, August 7, 2010 at 12:03 am Link to this comment

Leaving the question “did Truman have to use the bomb or not?” to one side. I personally think he did not have to use it, as Japan was already defeated. Today the only people I read who are considering using “tactical” nuclear weapons are the Israelis against Iran. Have you noticed that the three countries who really love bombing people are the British the Americans and Israelis? Of course they are bombing evil people, you know, fascists, communists, terrorists, Vietnamese, Afghans, gooks, rag heads, or as George Carlin used to say; “brown people”. “Hay, you’ve got some brown people in your country, tell them to watch the fuck out!”

By the way, the fire-bombing of Dresden WAS a war crime. The Israelis were not around then, so it was left to the British and Americans. They did a good job. We now know it was Churchill’s idea to impress the Russians. The Russians were impressed.

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By Tony Wicher, August 6, 2010 at 10:31 pm Link to this comment

I think the bomb was used because they had it and the opportunity to use it to see what it would do. They would have used it even if the Japanese had tried to surrender. You think a guy like Curtis Lemay would pass up an opportunity like that?

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By marcus medler, August 6, 2010 at 10:02 pm Link to this comment

We need not be so gentle in our look back. The
prevailing attitude of all victors on the eve of
capitulation is,“get the bastards”. “Kill all the
slimy f..ks.”

C.P. Snow wrote an excellent study on “rational”
decision making over England’s great -lust- for
carpet bombing Germany as policy during
WW2.(it was yes-revenge)

It takes a few bloodless weeks for reason to
reemerge after the initial euphoria of winning. 

I submit it holds true for any activity that
organizes around a militarist perspective-even
house “investing”.

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By Eric, August 6, 2010 at 9:10 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

It’s just another mass scale war crime to add to the list of attrocities.

We were founded as and empire. We killed off the natives, brought slaves over to do our labor, and stole half of mexico.

We’ve always have been and empire.

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By rosross, August 6, 2010 at 8:30 pm Link to this comment

I would add if you believe that someone has a right to kill a person who attacks them then I can take it you believe Iraqis and Afghans have a right to attack Americans because America has attacked their country?
Let’s remember the Afghans and Iraqis never attacked America. Even if you believe the official story about 9/11 the attackers were Saudi!
So if Iraqis and Afghans attack Americans, even civilians, by your argument, they are justified?
This is the idiocy of war. The Japanese and Germans went to war for exactly the same reason America is at war - to establish a military footprint and advance hegemonic plans.
America is in Afghanistan to protect oil supplies and to create a more powerful military footprint and ditto for Iraq. America will however lose both of these wars and like the Japanese and Germans ultimately be forced to surrender. Luckily for America it is not likely to e occupied but it will be defeated.
America’s wars are as unjust and as bloody as that waged by others with hegemonic dreams in the past.
Look to the bloody history of your own country, as we should all do, before pointing the finger at others.

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By rosross, August 6, 2010 at 8:19 pm Link to this comment

Attacking civilians in any war is immoral and a war crime. Dropping the bombs on Nagasaki and Hiroshima was so much worse because a. the Japanese were defeated they just had not surrendered so the war was over, b. the bombs were dropped on civilian areas not military targets; c. one bomb was bad enough but a second utterly unnecessary bomb was dropped.
Unfortunately your list of wars which support intervention would have to mean that other nations had a right to go to war to prevent America’s naked aggression in Iraq and Afghanistan and Israel’s in Palestine and Lebanon? And I would add Russia’s in Chechnya and China’s in Tibet.
In the modern world no war is correct to pursue. America and its allies had no right to interfere in North Korea and Vietnam to prop up ‘semi-stooge’ governments and they have no right to be in Iraq or Afghanistan.
Let’s remember that the Americans armed and supported Saddam Hussein through the worst years of his brutality including the attack on Iran.
And it does make a difference how you lose your life. The rules of war, constantly broken, are that you do not attack civilians. The US dropped two nuclear bombs on civilians knowing a war had ended. That amounts to probably one of the worst, if not thhe worst war crime in history given the numbers killed for absolutely no military justification.
Many people are not okay with any kind of killing. Even that of someone invading your house.
But, the rules of war exist to say that you have a right to defend yourself when attacked. The Japanese people who were slaughtered by America were not attacking. They were defeated and they were unarmed.
Do some historical research and it is clear to see that militarily Japan was defeated and had no choice but to ultimately surrender. You will also find that there was a lot of pressure to use the hideous weapon created by the Americans before it was too late and as a warning to the Russians.
And I can’t believe you are quoting a movie as history. Or perhaps I can.
If you took a walk through Vietnam, Cambodia, Iraq, Afghanistan and numerous South American countries you would find Americans had committed and continue to commit similar atrocities. Sadly human nature being what it is the Germans and Japanese were not the first, not the worst and not the last.
Stop watching movies and do some research.
Your country by the way was not founded on equal rights. When the US was founded women did not have equal rights; women did not have equal rights; Indians did not have equal rights…. The United States was founded by those in power and those with money for those in power and those with money and sadly it has remained so in many ways.
There is no doubt that America, as a part of the modern and developing world, along with parts of Europe, like France, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and other new nations did emerge at a time when equal rights become seen as important. But, it says something about a country when it takes some three hundred years for black Americans to be given equal rights. America may have been no orphan in the developed world but it certainly had one of the worst records in racism.
You may consider aspects of Japanese culture to be barbaric but they quite rightly considered aspects of your culture to be barbaric… and I don’t mean racism.
America was wrong to drop nuclear weapons on defenceless Japanese citizens; men, women and children and it should apologise. Just as the Germans have had to apologise for their war crimes and as the Japanese are pushed to fully apologise.
One rule for all.

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By R.Ross, August 6, 2010 at 6:49 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Paolo well said. There was no need to drop the bombs on Japan. They represent probably the greatest war crime in history.
I am struck by how much talk there is about American lives….. surely what matters if life? To single out one’s own country is to suggest that you are superior and the death of an American counts more than the death of another?
Unfortunately, America has gone on from this act to countless acts of war which have killed and continue to kill millions around the world.
More than a million Iraqis are dead because America decided it wanted to get rid of it’s stooge Saddam Hussein and expand its military footprint.
America has been morally bankrupt for a long time and it probably began with Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Although I agree with Paolo on the fire bombing of Dresden and other such war crimes.
Still, on a positive note at least the Brits and Yanks turned up this time.

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By Paolo, August 6, 2010 at 6:08 pm Link to this comment

From my libertarian perspective, the atomic bombings of Japan were war crimes, pure and simple. (The same goes for the fire bombings of Tokyo, Dresden, and other civilian population centers—these were sheer acts of terrorism.)

The fact Japan also committed war crimes does not justify war crimes on the part of the allies.

By 1945, Japan was clearly beaten; we knew it, and the Japanese knew it. Their industrial capacity was destroyed. Their access to raw materials was cut off. In other words, their ability to wage war was destroyed.

Rather than commit war crimes, Truman had the option of blockading and discussing terms of surrender. Instead, he held out for the absurd “unconditional surrender.” (This buzzword is meant for public consumption. Conditions are always discussed and agreed to.)

If Truman really wanted to use his new macho toy, the atomic bomb, he could have simply arranged a demonstration of the bomb on any number of uninhabited islands, with Japanese observers.

There is also ample proof the Japanese were willing to discuss terms of surrender in 1945. Those overtures were rejected.

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By Arline, August 6, 2010 at 5:54 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

If you read Barbara Tuckman’s book Stilwell and the American Experience in China, you’ll have a better understanding of the overall situation with Japan. Japan had 400,000 troops in China ready to take over the country when they won the war. Taking over China was Japan’s major goal.

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By pabbott, August 6, 2010 at 5:50 pm Link to this comment

To answer a couple of the posts below…

If you’re using Hitler as a measuring stick for your decisions, you’re in serious trouble.  Seen anyone lately with a “What would Hitler do?” bumper sticker?

As to how many American lives it would have been worth to go an alternative route, well how many Japanese lives are worth an American life?  Would it be worthwile for one extra American death to save 1,000 Japanese? 10,000?  100,000,000?

Those of us in the rest of the world know exactly where we stand in the general American calculation.  And we just hope that when China calls the bills due, y’all down there in the white hats don’t decide to go out in a nuclear blaze of glory. 

My apologies to all the very many Americans with a sense of decency.

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By Claus-Erik Hamle, August 6, 2010 at 4:09 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The sad truth is that the Pentagon has never accepted MAD. They have always been aiming at achieving a disarming and unanswerable first-strike capability. Former chief Trident missile engineer Bob on the missiles to be deployed on ships in the Black Sea in Bulgaria and on land in Poland and Romania by 2015: “Whether they are on ships or land, they are still a necessary component for an unanswerable first strike”. The US Navy can track and destroy all enemy submarines simultaneously (Robert C. Aldridge: Nuclear Empire, ch. 9). Minuteman-3 and Trident-2 D5 obtain an accuracy of 30 meters or less, enough to destroy any hard target. Bob Aldridge resigned because a disarming and unanswerable first-strike capability leads to Launch On Warning.
The worst of it, though, is that it looks like the Pentagon thinks it can minimize nuclear winter effects sufficiently. The MX warhead is designed to minimize nuclear winter effects like the D5 on Trident-2 and earth-penetrating warheads. The MX warhead is now on Minuteman-3. What other reason for that other than minimizing nuclear winter effects ? BUT IT WILL NEVER WORK WITH THE RUSSIAN ANSWER OF A HAIR-TRIGGER LAUNCH ON WARNING = SUICIDE BY MISTAKE/ACCIDENT BECAUSE OF THE BLOODY FOOLS IN THE PENTAGON. Please see Robert C. Aldridge: First Strike! The Pentagon´s Strategy For Nuclear War.

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By Atilla, August 6, 2010 at 4:02 pm Link to this comment

Tobysgirl, the only thing ethics will get you on the battlefield is killed.

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By donquijoterocket, August 6, 2010 at 3:41 pm Link to this comment

My late father who served as a combat engineer in the Southwest Pacific (Philippines and New Guinea) under MacArthur and called him dugout Doug until the day he died and would have undoubtedly been assigned to any invasion force always thought the use of the nukes was unnecessary for the reason that we had virtually total control of the Pacific, the coastal waters around the Japanese home islands, and their air space. But he always wondered if total Japanese civilian casualties would have been greater from a prolonged blockade than from the use of the nukes.Another objection of his was that our use made thinking the unthinkable possible.

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By Tobysgirl, August 6, 2010 at 3:38 pm Link to this comment

Jim Yell: “I personally believe that WWII is the only war that could not have been avoided, although a less punitive and hateful approach to Germany after WWI might have saved Germany from the financial ruin that fueled the rise of radical, right wing dictatorship.”

Read some history. This is what Germany howled to the world and was not true. They were treated quite fairly postwar, but of course they didn’t manage to conquer the world, which would have been nicer in their view.

We could have avoided the war by 1) stopping fascism in Europe (but then lots of Americans and British liked fascism, and what can one think of a commenter calling himself Hitler?) and 2) not funding or supplying the Axis powers (see Bush family, see shipment of scrap iron to Japan, etc).

Thank you, Norman Harman, for your comment. It was by far the best. My mother, an insurance secretary in the 1930s, knew that the Japanese were slaughtering Chinese civilians at the time, and not many people in the U.S. gave a damn. She had friends in the Pacific Theatre during the war and knew it was hell on earth. But she could still repudiate dropping atomic bombs on civilians, perhaps because she had an imagination and ethics. Firebombing is probably the closest thing to a nuclear attack, but nothing compares to the effects of atomic warfare.

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By rolando rochin, August 6, 2010 at 3:36 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Truman, could have used anyone of the uninhibited small island to show the
destructive effect of the atomic bomb to the Japanese people. but no way, should a
decent country ever make war on civilians. But truman was just doing what U.S.
history has always done, beginning with the ethnic cleansing of the native
Americans,black slavery,the Tuskehee syphilis experiment,Korean war every where
you look America profits from killing our own people or traveling thousands of
miles to kill in foreign countries. So don’t be surprised if someone drops a nuke on
us. Remember “do on to others as you would have them do on to you”,or should
we really take those words serious, I do. Too bad christians don’t.

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By Tyco, August 6, 2010 at 3:22 pm Link to this comment

For those of us who had brothers and cousins who fought in the Pacific during WW II this agony over the use of the atomic bomb falls on deaf ears. The Russians were fully aware of our development of this weapon. Indeed, they were already on their way to duplicating it. Had we not used it, it is difficult, if not impossible to imagine, how much more aggressive their actions in Western Europe would have been after the war. By authorizing its use President Truman demonstrated the strenght of character which prevented WW III. Everyone who sheds tears over its use, terrible as it was, has no appreciation for how committed the Japanese were to the defense of their home islands and what formadible foes they were.

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By gerard, August 6, 2010 at 3:18 pm Link to this comment

Regarding possession of the bomb:  Probably anyone who had the bomb would have dropped it, giving various excuses such as “it will shorten the war” etc. That is why it is so dangerous; anyone may drop it again.  People are correct when they say “that Is the nature of war” and that is precisely why modern war —all modern wars(with increasingly horrendous weaponry in the hands of people who will stop at nothing to “destroy the enemy”) have got to be stopped. 
  To do that, we have to come to the realization that our weapons and our power to destroy are greater than our ability to recover from their effects.  We are slowly coming to recognize that we make enemies, either by things we do or things we don’t do.  And they make us their enemy in precisely the same way.  Once this is realized, the next step will be to get together beforehand and talk about what you did to make me mad and what I did to make you mad, and see if we can agree, first not to kill each other, and second how to come to some terms of agreement. (It’s elementary, but only made to seem hard in order to prevent having to do it.)
Stoppping and preventing wars will involve changed attitudes and behavior on both sides, but peace has been made in the past; otherwise nobody would still be alive on the planet. So we know it can be done. Practice makes perfect, however, and we do need practice.
These simple facts are obvious but wars throughout history have wired in a lot of lies mixed with facts, beliefs, hopes, illusions and myths about enemies and winning and heroes and patriotism and honor and innocence and guilt … well you know the buzz words used time and again to stimulate war hysteria.
  Mankind is at a turning point, and war is a losing game, no matter who “wins.” The big problem is the desire to deny that war makes money, lines pockets, and the people who get killed – well, that’s too bad, but We “had to beat Them,” or they “deserved” it or “were in the wrong place at the wrong time” (collateral, you know – we didn’t mean to do it!)-  except our soldiers, of course, who, unlike their soldiers, are “national heroes.”  Goodbye to all that! The past is rotting before our eyes.

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By balkas, August 6, 2010 at 2:42 pm Link to this comment

As a wise person said; and i add more: americans, god, allah, yahweh may forgive you your crimes, but your nervous system surely will not!

Nature had ensured that we survive. It had imposed on us a limit on how much evil we can perpetrate. One can kill only so long before comitting suicide or going crazy.

However, the principle of safety in numbers and not killing people themselves, ensures that masters of killings and people can do that forever and die peacefully in bed.

Masters of people and the ones that know it in US, may number no more 5 million people, but fiercely interdependent and united, controling utterly cia-army-fbi-city police echelons, they are unstoppable as long as present knowledge of the rest of US population stays the same.

Yes, i said knowledge! What they know, they evaluate as all there is to know.

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By doublestandards/glasshouses, August 6, 2010 at 2:38 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Atilla @6:15
If, if, if….. History is not a record of ifs and freedom does not come from the slaughter of innocent people.  I’m sick to death of hearing that our freedom depends on destroying the rest of the world.

The US ambassador’s attendence at the Hiroshima ceremony is the first step in our government’s acknowledging the crime against humanity which the US carried out there.

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By mindful, August 6, 2010 at 2:32 pm Link to this comment

If the best defense for using the A bomb is ” any of our enemies having it first, would have not hestitated to use it.”, seems a bit hollow.

The US is now changed its putative reasons for wars in Afhanistan from killing OBL to killing the Taliban, to stabalizing a corrupt Karzi government.

If the US now after 65 years, is just as we speak sending a representative to the Memorial ceremony,
could this be the beginning of the cloulds pulled from the eyes. This was an immoral act and a weapon so horrible could have no justification.

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By Atilla, August 6, 2010 at 2:15 pm Link to this comment

Brett Reilly and the rest of you apologists; do you think for one second that given their possession of the “bomb” that Hirohito or Hitler would not have dropped it on us in an instant? That is the nature of war. You people need to stop apologizing for actions that insured you would be free today. The U. S. did not attack Japan…nor did we attack Germany. As for Korea, the cold war was heating up, and Americans were paranoid at the word communism. That war, as Viet Nam, was never fought to win. LBJ has the blood of over 58K of our sons on his hands. I am only sorry that we can’t dig the bastard up and kill him again.

Now we see the same mistakes in Afghanistan. Will we ever learn to fight to win again? If that means civilian casualties…so be it. We need to stop playing pitty pat with the enemy and destroy him…by any means necessary.

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By Ralph Kramden, August 6, 2010 at 1:59 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The dropping of the “bombs” was a war crime of major proportions. Truman was lying about the invasion of Japan. There was not going to be an invasion. When the Soviets invaded Manchuria, Japan started peace talks. Truman knew this. Additionally, the two bombs were different bombs (I believe one was plutonium based and the other uranium based) suggesting that the USA was experimenting with Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Truman was one mean SOB and is probably responsible for the Cold War. He did accomplish some good things, but this fawning admiration for a deeply flawed man is misplaced. Truman could had dropped the bomb on a deserted island as a demonstration, no, he had to drop it on Hiroshima to try and scare the Soviets. It always amazes me how quickly we condemmed war crimes when others commit them but never aknowledge our own war crimes.

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By gerard, August 6, 2010 at 1:50 pm Link to this comment

GWH:  Your question:“How many American lives would it take to justify the use of the bomb? The answer is none. It can’t be justified. Nuclear weapons are unjustifiable weapons of mass destruction and nobody should make or keep or use them—ever. Their use was a terrible error. Lives “saved” is a wild assumption, unproven, unprovable and therefore useful for excusing beastiality and arguing in favor of nuclear weapons.
  Such a hypothetical question attempts to justify a theory that pits some lives against other lives and assumes that some are “worth more” than others.  Who can say my life is worth less, and your life is worth more? And to whom? And why?  Who can say my friend’s ilfe is worth more to me than your friend’s life is worth to you? 
  To propose such evaluations is a symptom of irrational thinking rampant in cases of hysterical fear due to misinformation and lack of information.
  But in spite of reality, in order to kill people, it is necessary to believe that your life is worth more than the life of the persons you kill.  It is only a belief, however, not a fact.  Soldiers coming home from war with PTSD are facing up to the facts of having killed people—even children—and with the evidence before them, they come to realize the lie in the propaganda and the truth of the fact that “All people are created equal” and have an equal right to be alive.
  Quite apparently, the bombs were dropped to “see what would happen.”  Do you think you deserve the accidental luxury of not being there at the time because Americans are (were) “better than” Japanese?
Do you suffer under the illusion that you are a member of the Party of God?

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By surfnow, August 6, 2010 at 1:11 pm Link to this comment

the greatest “what if” in amerikan history, is “what if” henry wallace had gotten the nod for vp in ‘44 like he should have instead of that lapdog of the political machine truman?  wallace, who was a Progressive with a capital P would never have dropped the bomb- it was totally unneccessary and was done primarily to scare the russkies-

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By "G"utless "W"itless Hitler, August 6, 2010 at 12:54 pm Link to this comment

Boy, the 60s era revisionists really have you refugee flower children conned but good. 

Here’s an open question for anyone with the balls to answer it:  How many American lives would it take to justify the use of the bomb?  Any of you namby pamby Tojophiles want to answer that one?  Would not using the bomb have been worth 10,000 Americans?  30,000?  What’s your feel good number?

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By rico, suave, August 6, 2010 at 12:50 pm Link to this comment

We could have shown the Russians how powerful we were by inviting them to Alamogordo for the demo. And if we were afraid the demo would fail, we probably were also afraid a demo for Japan might fail, especially since the Hiroshima bomb was the first ever dropped from a plane. Why didn’t we target Tokyo?

And Japanese women jumping off of cliffs? That was on a very few islands, Okinawa the biggest, very late in the war. They jumped because they believed the propaganda their own military was feeding them about their fate should they be captured by the Americans. I don’t think you’ll find too many stories of women jumping at the point of a Marine bayonet.

As for the calculus of civilian casualties, I’m not sure ANY player in WWII was guiltless when it came to avoiding civilian casualties. Japan in China, Korea or the Phillipines? Germany in Russia? Britain over Germany? Germany over London?

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By Diane V. McLoughlin, August 6, 2010 at 12:22 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Link - touches upon Republican threat to scuttle the new strategic arms reduction treaty (New START) with Russia; addresses why we should engage; reminds regarding the destructive force of weapons such as Minuteman III -

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By LostHills, August 6, 2010 at 12:15 pm Link to this comment

The nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were despicable and shameful
war crimes that our country has not yet confronted or owned up to.

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By ejreed, August 6, 2010 at 12:01 pm Link to this comment

Commemorating the Hiroshima Bombing: The United States dropped an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima 65 years ago, killing an estimated 140,000 people. The city has become a global center for anti-nuclear proliferation, with bomb survivors among the most outspoken supporters

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By Brett Reilly, August 6, 2010 at 11:35 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)


The “enemy” were civilians living in Hiroshima and Nagasaki then? Would you
be so confident then if a nuclear bomb was dropped on San Francisco by one of
our enemies. No, you would call that an atrocity, and rightfully so since
international law bans the bombing of civilian centers. We didn’t kill all of
Japan’s Imperial Army with the bombs, we killed hundreds of thousands of
women, children, elderly, and yes some soldiers.
The USSR announced it was entering the war in E. Asia the day after the first
bomb was dropped. Truman dropped the first bomb without giving adequate
time for the Emperor to respond because he needed to force surrender before
USSR troops gained a foothold in Japan too, since they already had most of E.
Europe by the end of WWII.
This article also lacked plenty of facts. For instance, the number “one million”
was never cited by an US report at that time. Deaths were estimated at around
50,000 at most. But Truman greatly enhanced this figure later in his life as a
quick justification. In addition, Truman mused with his aids that they wouldn’t
know the full effect of the bomb because so much of Japan was already
destroyed. If Truman was only going to accept FDR’s concept of “unconditional
surrender” then why did he accept the conditional surrender of Japan AFTER
two nuclear bombs? Because he needed to force a very quick surrender to keep
Stalin out of E. Asia and shape the post-war world in a way that fit the US’s
strategic plans. Don’t forget that Japan was our center-point military outpost
in Asia during the Cold War and cited as VITAL to our interests—even more
vital than areas were US soldiers were needlessly sent to die—Korea, Vietnam-
-according to those Cold War era policymakers.

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By SteveL, August 6, 2010 at 11:31 am Link to this comment

Between the bombing and the Korean Presidential war my opinion of Truman has
dropped like a rock.

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By "G"utless "W"itless Hitler, August 6, 2010 at 11:22 am Link to this comment


Yeah, the generals know better.  They also make their decisions based on acceptable numbers of casualties.  I doubt enlisted men have the same threshold of tolerance for death as do the strutting peacocks in the rear.  I think you’ve got it backwards.  Generals are good at prolonging wars not ending them.

Let me ask you this:  In your opinion, how many American lives WOULD have justified the use of the bomb?  The same men that said Japan was finished also thought we’d take Saipan a lot more easily than we did.

And of course, it’s funny how the same men who devised and approved carpet bombing of civilian targets during war got all weepy and compassionate in their old age.  Did they come out against conventional bombing too or was it just fashionable to pooh pooh the use of nukes.  Hindsight is 20/20. 

Here’s and interesting piece:

It discusses how the casualty estimates were established.  Seems they actually thought about those figures quite a lot.  Reading it, one gets the distinct impression that some of the generals involved—prior to their knowledge of the A-bomb—wanted the keep the casualty projections low so that an invasion wouldn’t look like too daunting a task.  Wouldn’t want the American people going all soft before the real fun began I guess. (Yessiree, Generals knows best!)  It also claims that Marshall thought the use of the bomb to bring about a swift end to war was a wise decision. Go figure! I wonder if he got all weepy and compassionate in his old age as well.

Oh, and another thing:  It seems the generals didn’t want the Russians entering the war to help us out with Japan.  Oh, they admitted that it would cost many more American lives to go it alone but heck, our boys can handle it.  Yeah, they f*cking know best, huh?

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By gerard, August 6, 2010 at 11:16 am Link to this comment

The best way to “keep one’s distance” from a problem is not to admit or confess it.

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By jon, August 6, 2010 at 11:12 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

An article published today by Global Research puts a very different, and for me totally new, light on the reasons behind the A-bomb attacks - see this link:,+Israel,+9/11/12a47b7b9282ddba

It was about US hegemony and it is still today about US hegemony!!

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By Atilla, August 6, 2010 at 11:05 am Link to this comment

Stop it! Stop it gerard! You are breaking me up…I can’t stand it anymore (sob..sob). Happy birthday, indeed.

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By gerard, August 6, 2010 at 10:56 am Link to this comment

” ... an aged, powerless human being, motionless under the weight of this great outrage, just feeling the peculiarly concentrated tension, as if doing so (while doing nothing) were an art form in itself. And for that old Japanese man, perhaps sitting there alone in silent protest will be his own “late work.”—Kenzaburo Oe, Japanese Nobel novelist, contemplating the sorrows of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and of not writing THE novel that would stop nuclear weapons forever. 
  It mirrors my own deep feelings of failure as well == sitting alone in silent protest.  One of my family is celebrating a birthday today, and tonight we will gather for a party.  A party!  A party?  Party to outrage?  Party to infamy? Happy Birthday, Hiroshima?  Happy Birthday, Nagasaki?

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By Mike Strong, August 6, 2010 at 10:49 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

There are two points I seldom see in this argument which go to the rational regarding the estimate for success of any tactic or strategy to bring that war to a close.

1 - the attempted coup (up until the last) to prevent the emperor from surrendering (which was noted by one commenter here).

2 - the casualty ratio of Japan versus any and all other troops (ours or any enemy) before surrender or other victory. If we or the Germans or Italians or anyone other than the Japanese suffered around 20% casualties, this was considered severe, and was the point at which surrender or withdrawal was the decision.

On the other hand the Japanese just would not be taken prisoner, so their ratio was literally 99% dead to 1% prisoner. And often those left alive were prisoners because they were unable physically to avoid being taken prisoner. Sometimes those same prisoners would later take their own lives. Further, just for being prisoners, even though they may have been taken prisoner because they were incapacitated, they were considered to have disgraced their families.

So part of the evaluation of how to proceed is how does your enemy react to what you do? (To which one should note that most bombing has been shown to 1) physically destroy things while 2) causing the population to group together in harder resolve against whoever is bombing them and regardless of the reasons)

That doesn’t mean we should not have at least tried a demonstration of the A-bomb, I do think we missed that opportunity. True, they were considered experimental and were in very short supply, being all prototypes. But then the invasion of the main island was still several months away.

Other Thoughts:

There is also the ugly thought that Hiroshima and Nagasaki were the price which caused us, and perhaps the world, to dodge a worse set of nuclear bullets later, starting with Korea. Though with the development of nuclear weapons ongoing, one has to wonder how long that will last. Add to that the little note that after centuries of being very war oriented the Japanese did a very huge turnaround.

The Japanese Atomic Project

They did have two nuclear bomb projects going on (Army, Navy). Their chief scientist on this, Yoshio Nishina (who died in 1951) had worked with Neils Bohr in Copenhagen and also with E.O Lawrence.

As far as is know for sure the Japanese didn’t develop a bomb, diverting most of those resources elsewhere. In 1943 Nishina estimated in a report that he didn’t think the US could do this either, at least by the end of the war. That evaluation caused the Japanese navy to move most of those resources from that project into other (radar) development.

In early 1945 important Japanese nuclear production equipment was damaged by Allied bombing. Even so, there is also a post-war rumor (unconfirmed) that a “test of a nuclear weapon near Konan on 12 August 1945” was to have been performed. Konan was captured by the Soviets preventing US investigators from checking it out.

Considering what the Japanese did to the Chinese (and even today barely acknowledge) I have to wonder what would have happened had we allowed them to surrender on their terms or easier terms and then start again, still warlike, and renewing the bomb project. Which leads to the thought that as awful as those two bombs were, is it possible that this was actually a better route for all? The calculation in that thought is horrid, but should be placed on the table for consideration.

I don’t claim to have answers for paths not taken, certainly none that I think are all fully palatable, but these items are worth adding to the mix of considerations.

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By Atilla, August 6, 2010 at 10:29 am Link to this comment

It is obvious from the comments here that most of you never served in war time, much less the military. All of the poor mouthing you people are doing about the needless loss of enemy life is coming from people who know absolutely nothing about the costs to American military personnel. I was born after the war ended, but my father served, and I have heard some horror stories that would stand your hair on end. I served during Viet Nam, and although never in country, I had the duty, and privilege, of serving as part of the honor guard for several fallen comrades. It is very easy to sit back 65 years removed from the fact and lob cheap shots at those who gave you the right to express your opinion. Untold hundreds of thousands, if not more, American servicemen survived to return to their families, and loved ones because of the bomb. Some of you people sound like you have more empathy for the enemy than you do for them. You remind me of the words of John Galsworthy noted British author, and dramatist, of the 18th and 19th centuries: “Idealism increases in direct proportion to ones distance from the problem”.

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By jkehoe, August 6, 2010 at 10:23 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Keep in mind any time a new weapon is available for use those in charge will find a time and reason to use it. Boys with new toys… 

And remember the historical narrative. Japanese propaganda painted a picture of American soldiers, once in Japan, raping and basically acting like vikings, looting and murdering, much like the Imperial army did in China killing some 6+ million civilians. The Japanese population likely would have chosen to starve to death over surrender. And the J army made it clear it would fight to the death. No surrender. All Americans, for their part, wanted the Pacific War over, asap. No doubt they wanted to show-off their new weapon to the world and esp. the Soviets. (Keep in mind there was doubt voiced from some quarters if the “bomb” delivered from an aircraft would even work. A major reason especially for the first target city) Thus message to the Soviets: don’t stick your nose into Americans sphere of influence. There was also a racist element to it all. The bomb was never considered for the European theater. Pure and simple revenge has to be factored in. Nobody is to mess with America. And this is the weapon to end all world wars…I’m one of the few Canadian social democrats who believes the initial decision was correct. Yet one bomb in a non-populated area…

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By ejreed, August 6, 2010 at 10:18 am Link to this comment

“Enola Gay” Navigator Member on Hiroshima Attack
An interview with the last “Enola Gay” crew member Theodore Van Kirk. Kirk looks back at the buildup to the debut of American nuclear weapons, and his role as navigator aboard the aircraft charged with dropping the atomic bomb on Hiroshima.

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By diman, August 6, 2010 at 9:38 am Link to this comment

Truman had committed an act of atrocity, unnecessary, and pointless,nothing to discuss here.

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By gerard, August 6, 2010 at 9:31 am Link to this comment

Thank you Grandpaw.  These justifications for inflicting a living Hell on thousands of fellow human beings—after all this time still raging—clearly reveal the fact that large numbers of Americans are totally unaware of the results of nuclear war. 
  Those who die and are sickened at the time are ruined physically.  Those who live on with the knowledge of responsibility, are sickened mentally whether they agreed or opposed.
  The one hope is that we will all act more wisely now, and prevent a recurrence.  Help the UNION OF CONCERNED SCIENTISTS by contributing whatever you can to their ongoing efforts.  2 Brattle Av., Cambridge, Ma 02238.

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By Richard N. Snyder, August 6, 2010 at 9:27 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

There is also the likelihood that Truman wanted to “showcase” the A-Bomb for
Stalin’s benefit, unaware of the fact that Stalin was already aware of the
successful U.S. test at Alamagordo, and had already ramped up his own A-
Bomb project under Beria. 

A chronology might be helpful:  On August 6, 1945, Hiroshima was bombed. 
On August 8, The USSR declared war on Japan, and invaded Manchuria.  On
August 9, the second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki.  On August 10, the
Japanese cabinet decided to make an offer of surrender, whereat the Allied
terms of surrender were communicated, and four days later, on August 14, the
Allied terms were accepted.

While that sounds like “cause and effect”, it is not necessarily so.

As early as June 22, 1945, breaking all precedent, the Emperor, at a meeting of
the Supreme War Council, ordered his ministers to “conclude the war”.  Thus
the Emperor’s government (the “Emperor’s party”) then commenced “peace
feelers”, but were put to disadvantage on the Potsdam demand for
“unconditional surrender”, which played into the Army’s belligerent position,
which was to ignore the Emperor’s orders.

While Japanese policy was in turmoil at the very top, the wheels were already in
motion for the bombing of Hiroshima.

When news of the Hiroshima bombing reached Tokyo, the Army was not
disturbed.  Their atomic experts visited Hiroshima, and assayed that the
destruction and death had not been as great as the March 9, 1945 firebombing
of Tokyo.  The Army did not have the benefit of long-term studies on the
effect of radiation, but accurately reasoned that the U.S. had not more than one
or two A-Bombs bombs left in its arsenal.

Thus, it is likely that Japan would have accepted the Potsdam terms, as it did, in
mid-August, with or without the A-bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

However, that hindsight, based on information not available to the Allies prior
to the use of the A-bombs, is largely ignored because the chronology would
seem to validate the “cause and effect” of the use of the A-bombs, followed by
the acceptance on August 14, of the Potsdam terms of “unconditional

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By Maxim02, August 6, 2010 at 9:18 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Brussels 6th August 2010
Discussing the morality of the first two nuclear bombs over Japanese cities is like discussing the morality of war !
We must and cannot forget that the Japanese during the war manhandled prisoners of war but also a large number of civilian people namely in Java and Sumatra.
Did we forget that Dresden was bombed notwithstanding the fact that it had been declared “open City” crammed with refugees, moreover that the Russians were barely a few miles away: the number of dead civilians amounted to some 220.000 roasted alive in a carefully planned “fire storm”. But now and for obvious reasons, this number of fatalities is brought down to 36.000 adding hypocrisy to sheer murder. (by the way the Russians were on the right bank of the Vistula while the Germans were crushing the Warsaw uprising and systematically levelling off the city remaining ruins. But this suited Russian purpose of eliminating any Polish resistance spirit ).
So, who can speak of “moral standards” while nuclear bombs became a well-engineered excuse to invade Iraq (while after all it was just one more colonial war).
I consider that all these debates are futile as were General McChrystal directives of winning Afghan “hearts and mind” consequently paralysing our troops there and harshly rebuking our own allies (see the Kunduz affair and the disastrous political repercussions).
It is so easy to discuss until one is out of breath on facts which happened some 65 years ago as we can no longer realize what the spirit was at that time and the nervous exhaustion of our population:just as and although it seems almost obscene the financial problems raised by the industrial efforts (not to mention the current Afghan war and its “supplementals” ? ).
Let’s be sensible and consider that things being what they are, President Truman whatever his shortcomings did the right thing.
And maybe, avoided further similar human disasters by revealing the very nature of nuclear “fire” .

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By norman Harman, August 6, 2010 at 9:17 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

JeffKamen: “Such is the nature of ideological
criticism carried out by people who have lost (or never had) any visceral
connection to the realities of the time about which they write.”

Bull! My father and his brother spent nearly 3 years slogging through the jungle
battlefields of the Pacific Theater (between the two of them they were awarded
16 Purple Hearts for wounds sustained during battles and two Bronze Stars for
heroism) yet I find the nuclear attacks (a.k.a. terror bombing) on Japanese
civilians to be a monstrous war crime and the so-called justifications for it -
saving allied soldiers’ lives - a hollow argument with no legitimate basis in
either humanitarian terms or even within the War Convention itself.

Trading the deaths of Japanese women and children for the lives of American
and Allied soldiers is a perversion of all the laws of war and makes a mockery
of the self-proclaimed decency of the American government (particularly the
“I’m just an average American guy” persona of Harry Truman) and the American

Moreover, there is absolutely no evidence extant to bolster the argument that
the “Japanese people would resist to the last person.” Even those who present
such an argument only cite the behavior of Japanese soldiers as examples. By
the late Summer of 1945 the Japanese military machine was in tatters (well
known by American and Allied military tacticians) and it was likely their
homeland defenses would have collapsed quickly.

And the argument that the “retooling” of Japan from a “rampaging, warring,
feudal state” into a “truly peaceful, modern democracy” required the use of a
nuclear attack is also fallacious. The same transformation could be seen in
post-war Germany without the use of an atomic bomb. (In addition, the
Japanese state had become a modern industrial nation with limited democratic
institutions prior to the war - much the same as Germany.)

Had the Soviet Union - our ally at the time - gotten the bomb first and used it
on the Japanese you can be assured U.S. leaders would have been pointing out
it’s criminality throughout the Cold War.

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By ikallicrates, August 6, 2010 at 8:58 am Link to this comment

Acbar, Truman’s decision to drop the bomb on Japan is not ‘mystifying’. As Ardee says, ‘We wanted to show Russia how powerful we were, nothing more than that’. It astonishes me that, so soon after the end of the ‘Cold war’, we have forgotten that the dominant event of the twentieth century was the rivalry of the communist and capitalist nations.

The First World War ended in a series of revolutions which broke up old empires and terrified the empires that survived. The revolution in Russia was not the only one, but to the capitalists it seemed the most important one. Long after the USSR ceased to be communist in anything but name, the capitalists continued to fear it. That is why they underestimated the rise of the fascists. They saw the Soviet Union, supposedly the center of world revolution, as their real enemy. They thought the fascists of Germany and Italy were merely restoring order and prosperity in their countries after the ravages of the First World War.

The capitalists hoped that the fascists and communists would go to war against each other, because they assumed that such a war would weaken them both, leaving the countries who had not been drawn into their conflict stronger by comparison. But the capitalist nations could not avoid being drawn into their conflict. The system of alliances set up after WWI drew the UK into the war when Germany invaded the UK’s ally, Poland. After that, one country after another was pulled in the conflict until it became another world war. But throughout World War Two, the capitalists still saw the USSR as their real enemy. As American troops entered defeated Germany, presidential advisors urged FDR to keep them moving east, into Soviet-held territory.

Truman did not drop the atomic bomb on Japan in order to force the Japan to surrender. The Japanese were ready to surrender. The USA did not want the Japanese to surrender to the Red Army. They especially did not want the Red Army to enter, and liberate, the Chinese territories occupied by the Japanese.  In his diary entry for July 8th, 1945, after having approved dropping the bomb, Truman wrote ‘Believe the Japs will fold up before Russia comes in’.  ChurchillI, with whom he dined that day, wrote in his diary ‘It is quite clear that the United States do not at the present time desire Russian participation in the war against Japan.”

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By Jerry, August 6, 2010 at 8:50 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Well, first of all some of the facts are wrong here. The Trinity test was on July 16th. Truman was briefed about the bomb within days of becoming President, not AFTER the test.

He also doesn’t address the fact that the Japanese were making contact with the U.S. to arrange a surrender during the summer of 1945. Admittedley these hadn’t gone far enough for the U.S. to know exactly how serious they may have been. I refer you to a book called “The Decision to use the Atomic Bomb” which looks at both what was happening that summer and the campaign after the war to publicly explain the decision.

I, for one, believe that the war would have ended within weeks without using the bomb. I also believe that the use of it probably prevented it use later one (possibly in Korea). And also, when the Manhattan Project became known to Congress and the public does anyone think for one minute that President Truman would have been impeached for not using it? If it hadn’t been ready for another six months and Japan surrendered in the meantime, don’t you think there would have been accusations that the administration hadn’t been aggressive enough in development? If it had been ready six months sooner do you think that it wouldn’t have been used on an nearly defeated Germany?

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By ron, August 6, 2010 at 8:36 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Japan was lying in ruins in summer 1945: Does anyone believe that Japan could have been triumphant at that point?

*Super-hawk Edward Teller opposed using the bomb on civilians as did other Manhattan Project scientists.

*Eisenhower was also opposed.

*The Strategic Bombing Survey [authored by Paul Nitze—another super-hawk] raised serious doubts about whether The Bomb ended the war.

*Japanese surrender overtures in summer ‘45 were rejected, and supposedly The Bomb had to be used because the Japanese wouldn’t surrender unconditionally. However,the actual surrender was conditional: the emperor remained.

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By grandpaw, August 6, 2010 at 8:36 am Link to this comment

GW,certainly you are free to consider that these thirteen military leaders were being insincere and simply trying to make themselves look good.  I don’t see it that way.  The remarks were made after, some many years after, the WWII; Eisenhower’s statement was made in his 1963 book, Mandate For Change, a couple years after his presidential term.  And you think he was trying trying to make himself look good? And you think the same of the prescient military men who thought that affirming the use of atom bombs as a legitimate means of warfare was a bad idea for the future? 

I think it best for the generals rather than the enlisted men be in charge of running a war.  I also think that if the enlisted men knew the facts as well as the generals, most would agree with the generals.  That would be particularly true if the enlisted men had been able to see the devastation wrought by the atom bombs up close; instead,they had no idea.

The fact that the United States is the only nation that has justified the use of the atom bomb, twice, does significant damage to our efforts to avoid a nuclear holocaust in the world.

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By Anarcissie, August 6, 2010 at 8:28 am Link to this comment

GWH—According to what I’ve read, enlisted people had the same wide spectrum of opinion as the rest of us.  Including the military leadership—the list you saw here was highly selective.

If you actually consider Truman’s choices, none of them were very nice.  The delusion that there are nice wars is one of the things that helped get us into Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.

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By "G"utless "W"itless Hitler, August 6, 2010 at 8:04 am Link to this comment

Grandpaw, is it any wonder that all these men would say we had Japan licked already?  To say we didn’t would suggest that they hadn’t done their jobs properly.  Do you think a distended ego like MacArthur’s would allow him to admit anything else?  Hell, he was probably pissed that he didn’t get to invade.  Only a few years later he was willing start WWIII with China!

The real question is what did the enlisted men think about it.  Do you have any quotes on the subject from the guys who faced daily death at the hands of Japanese?

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By felicity, August 6, 2010 at 7:58 am Link to this comment

JeffKamen’s post captures the mood of the time - a
time I remember, first hand, vividly.

The Japanese had given every indication that
surrender would not happen until ‘the last Japanese
was standing.’ (Weren’t Japanese pilots willing to,
and did, use their planes and themselves as human

General George Marshall was part of the group
advising Truman.  Marshall believed that “a democracy
could not survive more than four years of a war.” 
Given the present state of our nation after 69 years
of hot wars, cold wars and now threatening
terrorists, Marshall’s prediction was spot-on.

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By SocratesChildren, August 6, 2010 at 7:56 am Link to this comment

Kutler states that Truman learned of the bomb just before it was tested.

“Truman learned of the bomb when aides informed him of the successful atomic explosion at Alamogordo, N.M., on July 18.”

This is factually incorrect because Truman had pre-arranged with his aides in Alamogordo to send him a crypted message about the “birth” of the bomb.  The successful test was the key for telling Stalin the Americans have this new weapon, and negotiating with renewed confidence.  (Of course, Stalin already knew.)

Other sources also tell us that Truman learned of the bomb on the evening of the day he was sworn in, April, 1945, after Roosevelt died. His statement to reporters (heaven and earth have fell on me) indicates some grave awareness that was totally new.

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By "G"utless "W"itless Hitler, August 6, 2010 at 7:47 am Link to this comment

“She was not at all grateful for the bombs being dropped.”—Tojosgirl

Much like how any Kuwaiti civilians killed during the U.S. expulsion of Iraqi forces from Kuwait during the Gulf War were probably not grateful.  But Kuwait was nevertheless.

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By grandpaw, August 6, 2010 at 7:41 am Link to this comment

How did the military in charge of fighting Japan feel about the Atom Bomb?

“General Eisenhower: “I thought that our country should avoid shocking world opinion by the use of a weapon whose employment was, I thought, no longer mandatory as a measure to save American lives.”

Admiral Leahy: “the use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The lethal possibilities of atomic warfare in the future are frightening. in being the first to use it, we had adopted an ethical standard common to the barbarians of the Dark Ages.”

General MacArthur: “I had been conscious of depression and so I voiced to (Sec. Of War Stimson) my grave misgivings, first on the basis of my belief that Japan was already defeated and that dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary, and secondly because I thought that our country should avoid shocking world opinion by the use of a weapon whose employment was, I thought, no longer mandatory as a measure to save American lives. It was my belief that Japan was, at this very moment, seeking a way to surrender with a minimum loss of ‘face.’”

General LeMay: “The atomic bomb had nothing to do with the end of the war.”

Admiral Nimitz: “...I felt that it was an unnecessary loss of civilian life…...We had them beaten. They hadn’t enough food, they couldn’t do anything.”

Admiral Leahy: “It is my opinion that the use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki were of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender…..My own feeling was that in being the first to use it, we had adopted the ethical standard common to the barbarians of the Dark Ages. I was not taught to make war in that fashion, and wars cannot be won by destroying women and children.”

Admiral “Bull” Halsey: “The first atomic bomb was an unnecessary experiment…...It was a mistake ever to drop it…...(the scientists) had this toy and they wanted to try it out, so they dropped it…...It killed a lot of Japs, but the Japs had put out a lot of peace feelers through Russia long before.”

Admiral Byrd:  “Especially it is good to see the truth told about the last days of the war with Japan…..I was with the Fleet during that period; and every officer in the Fleet knew that Japan would eventually capitulate from…the tight blockade. “I, too, felt strongly that it was a mistake to drop the atom bombs, especially without warning.”

Admiral Strauss: “[The atomic bomb] was not necessary to bring the war to a successful conclusion… was clear to a number of people…that the war was very nearly over. The Japanese were nearly ready to capitulate… was a sin - to use a good word - (a word that) should be used more often - to kill non-combatants….”

Henry H. “Hap” Arnold, Commanding General of the US Army Air Forces.  “Arnold’s view was that it was unnecessary. He knew that the Japanese wanted peace. There were political implications in the decision and Arnold did not feel it was the military’s job to question it.

...........I knew nobody in the high echelons of the Army Air Force who had any question about having to invade Japan.”
Lieutenant General Ira C. Eaker, Arnold’s deputy.

“When the question comes up of whether we use the atomic bomb or not, my view is the the Air Force will not oppose the use of the bomb, and they will deliver it effectively in the Commander in Chief decide to use it. But it is not necessary to use it in order to conquer the Japanese without the necessity of a land invasion.”
Arnold, quoted by Eaker.

General Kenney:  “No! I think we had the Japs licked anyhow. I think they would have quit probably within a week or so of when they did quit.”

W. Averall Harriman: “General Spaatz felt Japan would surrender without use of the bomb, and did not know why a second bomb was used.”

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By digginter, August 6, 2010 at 7:34 am Link to this comment

It is the end of World War II. If not dropped the bomp,I don’t know what will happened with our world.

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By Anarcissie, August 6, 2010 at 7:33 am Link to this comment

It seems to me that starving the Japanese would have been far worse, killed far more people, than the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  As would an invasion of the home islands.  The kamikaze attacks and the very resolute resistance of the Japanese forces on Okinawa and Iwo Jima—practically every soldier died—impressed Americans greatly, but not in the way the Japanese had hoped.  Even after the nuclear attacks, much of the leadership wanted to continue the war, and when Hirohito overruled them, attempted to carry out a coup d’etat in order to do so.

I once asked a man of Truman’s era why the U.S. didn’t do a demonstration bombing.  He said, “Because if we had not bombed a city, the Japanese would not have believed we would use such a weapon on human beings.  They had to see what we would do.  And when we had done it once, they had to see that, knowing what it was like, we would do it again.”

People are also probably correct in thinking that the fact of the USSR was on Truman’s mind.  No one knew how long they would remain allied or what they would get up to if a protracted war continued in Asia.  They were a mystery and they were not our buddies.  So it was important from Truman’s point of view to end the war quickly, as well as to show Stalin a thing or two.  In those days the U.S. government could not assume that it controlled the world, any more than it can today.

I don’t see much point in rehashing the end of World War 2.  If you’re going to fight a war at all, you’re going to fight it with the means at hand.  There aren’t any nice wars.  The important thing is to stop the next one before it starts.

If you must pick over Truman’s decisions, though, first put yourself in his shoes realistically.  There is plenty of material available for this purpose, although it is less fun than the fables that have become enshrined in popular culture.

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By prosefights, August 6, 2010 at 7:32 am Link to this comment

“History is always written wrong, and so always needs to be rewritten.”

George Santayana
—Life of Reason: Reason in Science, Scribner’s, 1906, p. 45

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By "G"utless "W"itless Hitler, August 6, 2010 at 7:31 am Link to this comment

Tobysgirl—“Thank you to those commenters with some knowledge of history. The bombs were dropped when students and workers were on their way into the city so we could inflict maximum civilian casualties. We made it clear we were no different from the Nazis with their campaigns of terror when we firebombed German cities and dropped atomic bombs on Japan.

I listened to a Japanese woman speak who had been a student picking up bricks for rebuilding when the bomb dropped. Her teacher was vaporized right next to her, and at the time I heard her speak she had had something like 60+ operations on her legs. She was not at all grateful for the bombs being dropped.

Americans and their phenomenal stupidity regarding war! Talking about it like some theoretical exercise! We didn’t seem to like it much when 3,000 people were killed on September 11, but we can’t seem to make a link in our tiny little minds between such an event and what we perpetuate on other people.”

You might as well call yourself Tojosgirl, you twit.

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By Al Salzman, August 6, 2010 at 7:22 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

All this hand wringing about dropping the bomb on Japan to avoid the obvious: -the idea of American exceptionalism which gives us God’s imprimatur to expand our markets and increase corporate profits. (see the well-known remarks of Marine Commandant Smedley Butler)
‘Gott mit uns!” as the Wermacht would claim.  Our life style and affluence has, for three hundred years, been subsidized by the misery and slaughter of the ‘third’ world, so why should the evaporation of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilian ‘slant eyed japs’ be of any concern. (Update to Iraq and Afghanistan - substitute ‘Islamic towel-heads’ for ‘slant-eyed Japs’ and ‘Shock and Awe and depleted uranium munitions’ for the atom bomb!) Too many of us are ‘good Germans!’

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By Dave Weissbard, August 6, 2010 at 7:00 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

There is abundant evidence that the Emporer had made approaches through the Russians about suing for peace.  When I used this in a sermon about Hiroshima, those who refused to accept it pointed out that the Emporer was simply a figurehead and the military would not have followed.  It has recently become clear that the US painted the Emporer as a figurehead as a justification for leaving him in power (more or less) after the war, but in truth, he was very much in charge.

It was really all about using yellow people, who didn’t therefore count, as lab rats to demonstrate to the USSR how awful the power was that we held.

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By balkas, August 6, 2010 at 6:57 am Link to this comment

The fact that countries wage wars solely for land is once again omitted; thus, any piece not built on foundation or cause for mothers of all wars, leads to obnubilation and deception.

Conflict between japan and US had been a conflict between greatest criminal minds and not at all between 95% of americans and japanese.

It appears very likely that, US wanting desperately to control japan and possess some of its land, realized it could never conquer japan by any means save thru the two a-bombs.

So, i assume, waging war against japan may have cost US’ great criminal minds not only millions of lives,
but also loss of greece; possibly italy, southern part of korea, vietnam, etc.

So, i aver, there is always for criminal minds or any other cosa nostra gang but one choice only! tnx

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By Jim Yell, August 6, 2010 at 6:46 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I like the Japanese, but do not wish to be Japanese. They have an interesting culture, they are hard working and what is said about the Germans by the Germans, describe the Japanese, “as individuals they are admirable, as a group they are appalling” (my paraphrase.

Both the habits that give the Japanese many excellent qualities, are also the source of the horror of their joint actions in the past, just as with Germany.

The dropping of the bomb on Japan was tragic for the whole world, but it was understandable. The country (USA) was tired of War and ready for it to be over. To have done any other thing would have lead to civil and maybe even military unrest and rebellion. As to the morality of using the horrid device, well as quoted here more died in invidual conventional fire bombings than from the atomic bomb.

I personally believe that WWII is the only war that could not have been avoided, although a less punitive and hateful approach to Germany after WWI might have saved Germany from the financial ruin that fueled the rise of radical, right wing dictatorship. It is a lesson we should be thinking about as we allow corporations and banks get away with crime after crime that destabiize our country and the world at large. We might even ask if the future holds another raid on common sense by right wing reactionaries, who unfortunately are as likely to target the innocent as they are the corporate goons who have destroyed our livelyhoods.

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By Tobysgirl, August 6, 2010 at 6:32 am Link to this comment

Thank you to those commenters with some knowledge of history. The bombs were dropped when students and workers were on their way into the city so we could inflict maximum civilian casualties. We made it clear we were no different from the Nazis with their campaigns of terror when we firebombed German cities and dropped atomic bombs on Japan.

I listened to a Japanese woman speak who had been a student picking up bricks for rebuilding when the bomb dropped. Her teacher was vaporized right next to her, and at the time I heard her speak she had had something like 60+ operations on her legs. She was not at all grateful for the bombs being dropped.

Americans and their phenomenal stupidity regarding war! Talking about it like some theoretical exercise! We didn’t seem to like it much when 3,000 people were killed on September 11, but we can’t seem to make a link in our tiny little minds between such an event and what we perpetuate on other people.

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By Russell Posch, August 6, 2010 at 6:15 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

“A small number of scientists raised ethical and moral considerations, but their influence was of no immediate consequence.”......Dwight Eisenhower also opposed it.  Truman was in Pottsdam dividing up Europe when the bombs were dropped.  He was thrilled that the Japanese didn’t surrender before he had a chance to show the Russians his new weapon.

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