Saturday, August 06, 2005
The bomb: 60 years ago today!
Our parents are grandparents will always remember Hiroshima, and subsequently Nagasaki. We read about it in history class or magazines.
60 years ago today, everyone woke up to the news that the US had dropped an atomic bomb in Hiroshima.
Pres. Truman made the decision after looking at the options. I should say, the very ugly options!
By mid 1945, Hitler had been defeated. Truman, who had assumed the presidency after FDR's death in April, had his hands full in Europe trying to reorganize a shattered continent. We fought the war to destroy Hitler and ended up with a bigger enemy, Stalin and the USSR. WW2 started with the Nazi invasion of Poland and it ended with the Soviet occupation of Warsaw and Eastern Europe. Naxism out, communism in!
By the summer of '45, the war against Japan was one gigantic struggle. Today, we would call it a quagmire without an exit strategy.
Paul Fussell (World War II vet and National Book Award-winner) observed that "Allied (Pacific) casualties were running to over 7,000 per week."
Let me repeat. 7,000 casualties per week! That's about 1,000 a day.
Truman had two options.
The first one was an invasion of Japan. According to the experts, the invasion would cost thousands of US lives and would take another 1-2 years. It would require US troops marching through Japan and facing urban resistance.
The Japanese were hoping for an invasion. Why? Because they thought that they could wear out public support for the war in the US. They thought that heavy casualties would eventually destroy Truman politically.
The second option was dropping a bomb and breaking the back of the Japanese.
Truman correctly opted for the second option.
Austin Bay wrote "Thank God for the Atom Bomb" (http://www.realclearpolitics.com/Commentary/com-8_3_05_AB.html):
"The atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima (Aug. 6, 1945) and Nagasaki (Aug. 9) didn't end World War II -- at least not quite.
The six days between Nagasaki and Japan's surrender on Aug. 15 were six more hideous days of war for U.S. and allied forces. Combat -- and Japanese atrocities -- continued in China, the Philippines and Southeast Asia."
Sixty years later, it's easy to second guess Truman from the comfort of a college campus or an antiwar rally.
In my view, it was the right decision. It ended the war. It saved thousands of lives.
P.S. The Wall Street Journal tells the story of a WW2 veteran:
"In 1945, Paul Fussell was a 21-year-old second lieutenant who'd spent much of the previous year fighting his way through Europe.
At the time of Hiroshima, he was scheduled to participate in the invasion of the Japanese mainland, for which the Truman Administration anticipated casualties of between 200,000 and one million Allied soldiers.
No surprise, then, that when news of the bomb reached Lt. Fussell and his men, they had no misgivings about its use:
"We learned to our astonishment that we would not be obliged in a few months to rush up the beaches near Tokyo assault-firing while being machine-gunned, mortared, and shelled, and for all the practiced phlegm of our tough facades we broke down and cried with relief and joy. We were going to live."
Mr. Fussell was writing about American lives.
What about Japanese lives? The Japanese army was expected to fight to the last man, as it had during the battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa. Since the ratio of Japanese to American combat fatalities ran about four to one, a mainland invasion could have resulted in millions of Japanese deaths--and that's not counting civilians. The March 1945 Tokyo fire raid killed about 100,000; such raids would have intensified had the war dragged on. The collective toll from the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings is estimated at between 110,000 and 200,000."
It was a tough decision. But Pres. Truman made the right decision.
P.S. Let me recommend Prof V.D. Hanson on Truman's decision:
Posted by Silvio Canto, Jr. Post Link ---> 5:44 AM
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