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.
But on a personal level, how has Van Kirk coped over the years with the knowledge of the destruction the
bomb yielded? You do that thinking beforehand. You knew that when you were bombing over occupied France, over Africa you always knew that when you were dropping bombs out of aeroplanes a lot of people on the ground would be very seriously hurt. And civilians? Most of the Hiroshima victims were civilians.
The idea at the time was to destroy a nations will to fi ght and you werent dropping bombs in a pickle barrel, for chrissakes. You always recognised there were people on the ground: workers in a factory or civilians who could be killed by the bombs.
How difficult was that for him to deal with? If you could not deal with that you were worth- less as an aviator. You had to separate that in your mind or else you were no good. You couldnt have done the job.
He pauses then adds: Ive never found a way to fight a war without killing people. If you ever find that out let me know.