God bless those men, and many thanks for their service.
yeah....so would zer0bambam....on Israel, South Korea...and quite possibly the state house of Arizona.
The problem we have is that we HAVEN’T used the bomb
again. Had we used it in Korea our resolve would not
be in question.
I had a fascinating chat last week with an old sailor. He entered the Navy in ‘43 and served abord a landing ship that participated in the last of the Pacific island-hopping.
When they dropped the bomb, he was engaged in training exercises for the invasion of Japan.
The crew of the Enola Gay very well might have saved his life — and countless hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, of other lives — Japanese as well as Americans.
God bless Mr. Van Kirk. And thanks for the post.
Van Kirk is back row, second from left, next to Tibbets.
Great article, thanks for posting it.
BTW, I find myself wondering how many of the crew that flew Bockscar (i.e. the plane that carried out the Nagasaki bomb mission) are still with us?
Brave men, all.
Even looking back at the casualties, dropping ‘the bomb’ was a no brainer. Us dropping those bombs SAVED LIVES. It probably saved more Japanese lives than American.
We were preparing to invade main land Japan with a force numbering in the millions, and there would have been hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dead on both sides.
Those nuclear bombs brought a swift end to the war. Not to mention how they were truly remarkable feats of technology for the time. It’s still scary to imagine what would have happened had Germany or the Japanese would have gotten the bomb before us. The Germans were still working on it as we defeated them. Luckily, many of their best scientists were Jewish, and fled to America to escape the Nazis. I believe Japan much less so.
What a great story!
Van Kirk had it exactly right when he said: Ive never found a way to fight a war without killing people. If you ever find that out let me know.
He’s right. In Afghanistan right now our strategy is based on the opposite, implausible premise: Fight and WIN a war without killing people. That’s not possible. Civilians will die.
Van Kirk’s story makes me wish I could have been around people like General Curtis LeMay. Instead of LeMay we get Stanley McChrystal and Obama, who are more concerned with protecting Afghans than with winning the war.
My dad was the Intelligence Officer for the 509th Composite Bomb Group and knew Tibbets and crew of the Enola Gay quite well and also the crew of Bocks Car. He was with them in Nevada when they practiced bomb runs on a target in the desert. He passed in 1986.
Of course he would. Ultimately, the outcome was a favorable one.
But the fact that it was even necessary is sad. Those crazy Japanese tyrants put their people in that position.
My mother-in-law was a nine year old living not far from Hiroshima. She remembers the devastation.
WW2 is one of lowest points in human history.
I had the happy fortune to interview Gen. Sweeney while doing a journalism internship in DC back in '95.
The Japanese high command, and the Emperor were totally unwilling to surrender after Hiroshima...and ONLY after Nagasaki was hit did they agree to US terms. The strategy was to fool the Japanese into thinking we could do this to every one of their cities...when in actuality, we couldn't have made any more bombs for many months.
Sweeney had a similar attitude as described here, totally convinced he (and we) did the right thing. He looked and acted like Santa Claus without the beard, as I recall.
A couple of lines stick in my mind, but not the books titles dammit.
One was when a U.S. diplomat was talking to his counterpart right after the war. The Jap said they had to surrender before America dropped a third bomb. The U.S. guy said that at the time we had no more. The Jap said “If we’d have known you had only two . . .” and then shut up but the import was clear.
The other was this statement (from a creaky memory) where a Jap General was giving a pep talk to his troops, “Yes, things look bad now but if we resolve to fight on, we will still win.” This was AFTER the second bomb was dropped.
One of my favorite ploys when I run into one of these “we were wrong to drop the bomb” types is to ask them, “Do you honest-to-God believe that Japan would not have used it on us to prevent an invasion?” Deer in the headlights time.
Those who regularly advocate the U.S. should have dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki often cite casualty avoidance. People generally extrapolate from 48,000 American and 230,000 Japanese losses at Okinawa to 500,000 American and millions of Japanese casualties for mainland invasions.
Those estimates could have vastly understated causalities. Japan at 374,000 mountainous square miles mathematically enables over 500 defensives redoubts comparable to that General Ushijimas constructed to inflict most losses for the Okinawa campaign. Also, the Japanese planned as stubborn defense of their cities as the Russians had maintained in Stalingrad and Leningrad. The siege of Leningrad went on for 872 days with German and Russian casualties exceeding the 2 million of combined losses at Stalingrad.
The War Faction adopted the motto of 100 million Japanese deaths for planning the final mainland battles. The Japanese had lost their island empire and their fleet was at the bottom of the ocean. Yet many resources remained. Besides kamikazes, redeployed Kwantung divisions from China, and bamboo spears for civilians, the allies faced biological warfare. Occupation searchers uncovered large stockpiles of viruses, spirochetes, and fungus spores throughout rural Japan. The Japanese had spent years field testing the effectiveness of biological warfare in China. One delivery plan directed Japanese to infect themselves then surrender.
The Greatest Generation and their parents would have been enraged to discover a cabal indulged a personal moral orthodoxy by condemning over 500,000 Americans who might otherwise have been saved.
In terms of understanding the Japanese character, I have not seen mentioned the critical role Kokutai played in surrender. Any prominent Japanese lived out this spiritual combination of Emperor, citizen, land, ancestral spirits, government, and Shinto religion. When Emperor Hirohito in January 1944 formally endorsed forming a Peace Faction among politicians, he initiated an elaborate national theater. He and advisors then debated through twenty months of continuous defeats, fire bombings of over 60 cities, and 1.3 million additional Japanese deaths. The atomic bombs removed the Final Battles argument, allowing the War Faction to relent, Hirohito to assume his unprecedented roll, and no one to lose face. They remained within the fabric of Japanese from all eras who had sacrificed for Emperor and Empire.
People often say Japan was in the process of surrendering. However, if one examines Japanese negotiation initiatives in early August 1945, they are simply too vacuous to make dropping the atomic bombs unnecessary. These supposed negotiations cite proposals Foreign Minister Togo directed Ambassador Sato to offer Molotov, the Russian foreign minister. Japan intended ensuring Russian neutrality with incentives including offers of conquered Chinese territory. In exchange Russia was to mediate talks with the allies for settlement according to a Japanese vision of peace with honor. The first June 29 contacts ignored allies surrender demands with proposals the Russians considered too vague to answer or pass to the allies. The August 2 Japanese proposals accepted the Potsdam Declaration as one basis for further study regarding terms. Again Russia saw no reason to inform the allies. When Ambassador Sato finally saw Molotov on August 8, two days after Hiroshima, he received a war declaration instead of answers to his latest proposals. U.S. cryptologists continuously reading the Japanese diplomatic code titled Magic confirmed even Sato considered Togos Russian contacts ineffectual. The several other contacts like those by Admiral Fujimura and Kojimo Kitamura with Allen Dulles in Switzerland were ad hoc and lacked even informal endorsement by the Japanese Cabinet.
In spite of the Hiroshima atomic bomb and the Russian declaration of war the Japanese Cabinet debated Final Battles arguments into utter physical and mental exhaustion for eleven hours following Nagasaki on August 9. The war faction still contended just 20 million Japanese dead in vigorous, protracted operations would force a decayed, war weary America into stalemate leaving the Home Islands intact. In the final meeting of Hirohito and his Cabinet, Barron Hiranuma reproved Foreign Minister Togo for never making concrete proposals to the Russians. Minister Togo had no answer.
At impasse Hirohito, the god-king, spoke the Voice of the Crane in the 30 by 18 sweltering, underground bunker. He would bear the unbearable, conclude the war, and transform the nation. Only then did Japan contact Swiss and Swedish foreign offices to commence negotiations with allied belligerents.
As one final point, critics say the atomic bombs accomplished little. Supposedly Roosevelts decree of unconditional surrender was compromised away by allowing Japan to keep their Emperor. However, Imperial Japan abandoned its heritage by accepting the Potsdam Declaration provisions demanding the Emperors and governments authority be subject to the Supreme Allied Commander. The Japanese peoples free expression would determine ultimate government, eradicating multi-millennial Imperial characteristics. An approximate Western historical disruption would be displaying the bones of Jesus at the Vatican.