Skip to comments.Barton J. Bernstein: American conservatives are the forgotten critics of the atomic bombing of Japan
Posted on 08/06/2014 2:28:23 AM PDT by No One Special
"The use of the atomic bomb, with its indiscriminate killing of women and children, revolts my soul," he wrote. "The only difference between this and the use of gas (which President Franklin D. Roosevelt had barred as a first-use weapon in World War II) is the fear of retaliation."
Those harsh words, written three days after the Hiroshima bombing in August, 1945, were not by a man of the American left, but rather by a very prominent conservative -- former President Herbert Hoover, a foe of the New Deal and Fair Deal.
In 1959, Medford Evans, a conservative writing in William Buckley's strongly nationalistic, energetically right-wing magazine, National Review, stated: "The indefensibility of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima is becoming a part of the national conservative creed." Just the year before, the National Review had featured an angry, anti-atomic bomb article, "Hiroshima: Assault on a Beaten Foe." Like Hoover, that 1958 essay had decried the atomic bombing as wanton murder. National Review's editors, impressed by that article, had offered special reprints.
Those two sets of events --Hoover in 1945 and National Review in 1968-69 -- were not anomalies in early post-Hiroshima U.S. conservatism. In fact, many noted American conservatives -- journalists, former diplomats and retired and occasionally on-duty military officers, and some right-wing historians and political scientists -- criticized the atomic bombing. They frequently contended it was unnecessary, and often maintained it was immoral and that softer surrender terms could have ended the war without such mass killing. They sometimes charged Truman and the atomic bombing with "criminality" and "slaughter."
Yet today, this history of early anti-A-bomb dissent by conservatives is largely unknown. In about the past 20 years, various American conservatives have even assailed A-bomb dissent as typically leftist and anti-American, and as having begun...
(Excerpt) Read more at mercurynews.com ...
Stopped reading right there...
Monday morning quarterbacks with nothing to lose.
Ask all the survivors of the non-invasion of the Japanese islands about the atomic bomb. My great-uncle, who enlisted on December 8, 1941, would put his teeth in and give Herbert Hoover a earful.
Japan brought it on themselves. They were racist barbarians.
I believe Truman’s sincere motive was to shorten the war and save lives. Nevertheless, dropping bombs on cities with their civilian populations for the purpose of terror is and was a crime.
Used on military property. Military targets are legitimate targets in wartime. The Japs had no problem bombing our military property in peacetime, why should we feel guilty that we did so during wartime?
My great-uncle, after combat all across the Pacific, including New Guinea, Philippines, and Okinawa, was going to be in the first wave to hit Japan.
He said they told him his unit would take “at least” 95% casualties ... probably just because you’re probably going to have one fluke survivor somehow, if the unit’s big enough.
Would he have let this mass slaughter happen just to make some moral point if he had been President again at the time?
Problem with that is that Japan's civilian population was thoroughly integrated into its war machine at the time, with its cottage industry system of war production.
Nevertheless, dropping bombs on cities with their civilian populations for the purpose of terror is and was a crime.
You win a war by destroying the will of the people to fight, or you destroy the people. There is no other way.
If the U.S. had been forced to invade Japan casualties on both sides could have run into the millions. Many Baby Boomers would have never been born. And Truman proved to Stalin that the U.S. would use the bomb.
The Japanese at the time were akin to our current Muslim terrorists as they were both barbaric and from an old fashioned belief system that was anathema to freedom and individuality. They attacked and killed millions in China and were without mercy or remorse in the theater of war - that plus the counting of the cost of allied lives in the possible takeover of Japan adds a lot of justification for the use of the bomb - we may find in the not so distant future that Israel may find itself in such a predicament - I wonder who will fall on what side then?
Actually the Japanese casualties would have been even higher than a million. We had absolute control of the air over Japan. We were and would have continued to bomb every major city, industrial complex, factories of importance, until Japan ceased to function as a unified society. Disease and starvation would have killed more than a million easily. Once we invaded our casualties would have been high despite the destruction of Japan's infrastructure. We would have been ruthless as on the Island campaigns in the Pacific, because we faced a ruthless enemy.
It seems that in our nation we have forgotten that war must be ruthless to be effective. If you are not willing to kill your enemy and all that stand with him surrender, for he has already defeated you.
You know dad. Rest his soul was a Marine, who fought in the pacific in such garden spots as Guadlecanal and Bougainville. He was felled by a filaria mosquito and recuperated back in the states.... He was earmarked for the invasion of japan. Millions of American servicemen and millions of Japanese would have died if that had occurred.
Who is this history revisionist? Must be another liberal.
Unfortunately, nonsense like this is being taught in public schools.
War is the systematic application of terror. War should be a last resort and not the first option. If there is no alternative, war must be terrible and a terror to be effective. It is ugly business to be avoided if possible.
I think people forget that the US dropped leaflets warning those cities that we were going to be dropping a devastating bomb on then within a few weeks and that they needed to LEAVE!
In other words, we told then it was coming, if they didn’t get out then why in the hell should we feel sorry or remorseful?!?
The title makes it sound like conservatives were anti-nuke, one and all. This is based on a single letter written by one man?? One swallow does not a spring make, as the old adage goes.
Hiroshima was a carefully thought out target. It had to have enough ‘shock and awe’ to trick the japanese leaders into thinking that continuing to fight was useless. Don’t forget, we only had 2 bombs in total! The US had been avoiding Kyoto and other places (with regular carpet bombing) that were not used for military purposes with the thought of a post war Japan needing to keep some of its positive heritage and dignity. This is a courtesy that would not have been extended to us by either the Germans or the Japanese.
Hiroshima and Nagasaki were easy decisions and absolutely the right ones under the circumstances. Screw what liberals spew as "history".
My parents and relatives from that generation always credited President Truman with making the difficult and necessary decision to drop the bomb. As a result, many GI lives were saved.
Ok, Truman was a Democrat. But unlike the pseudo Democrat (communist) in the White House today, Truman could make the hard decisions without worrying about what do-gooders and other whiners think.
Roosevelt was a Democrat too. One can say lots of bad things about Roosevelt, but he wanted us to win the war, unlike certain contemporary Democrats we could mention.
They weren’t military properties; they were selected because the few planes Japan had left wouldn’t be defending them.
Clearly if the bombs in Japan were “crimes” and akin to dousing people with gasoline, then the “American conservative nationalist right” (all terms used by the author in this liberal handwringing piece) must’ve LED the “ban the bomb” movement, right?
What Truman did was not a crime.
According to libtardism discrimination is immoral. Bombs should not discriminate but treat everyone equally.
My parents and most of their generation in this town were committed, lifelong Democrats. They've passed on, but I wonder if they would still embrace the Democrats today. I think they would be appalled by the pressure to accept every perversion as normal and would be unhappy with the utter lack of leadership. I know they wouldn't be happy with the politically correct girly man occupying the White House today.
My relatives in Missouri abandoned the Democrats in the Clinton years.
Author is a blooming idjit
it would have cost a million US soldiers to invade Japan
don’t want collateral damage?
don’t start a war
I can’t celebrate the deaths of hundreds of thousands of non-combatants but I accept its clear necessity. Truman, the last decent democrat to hold the Oval Office made the right call. I hope he came to peace with his unavoidable decision. It was the right thing to do but it was still horrible.
The battle for Okinawa lasted 82 days (April - June 1945). The Allies had about 14,000 deaths (with an estimated total of more than 65,000 casualties). Japan had about 77,000 casualties. Some sources say that 100,000 - 150,000 local civilians were killed or committed suicide.
These losses on Okinawa were a big factor in Truman’s decision to use Little Boy (Hiroshima) and Fat Man (Nagasaki).
If Hoover had kids who would have had to invade Japan, I’d bet his opinion would’ve been different.
FDR basically continued Hoover’s policies, and stuck his own label on them.
The deaths are on the hands of Tojo and Company.
Those kids also probably would have had to stay in Japan to fight the Communist “North Japan” Army.
And we were getting the third bomb ready to go when Japan finally decided that life was better then death.
By the time November rolled around we would have had bombs coming off the line pretty steadily and we would have used them.
You have only to visit Shuri Castle in Okinawa to understand why. You will see pegs in the wall about knee and ankle height that what was left after the bombing. And the commander still would not surrender.
And they only surrendered after Hirohito went on the radio and expressed the desire to surrender.
He almost didn’t live to make that broadcast.
Barton J. Bernstein is a 78 year old professor of history at Stanford University. He can be presumed liberal.
Herbert Hoover was no conservative, but a government interventionist whose policies turned the 1929 crash into a full-blown depression that FDR prolonged through his own interventionist policies. Hoover’s criticism of the atomic bombings was isolationist, not `conservative’.
Prof. Bernstein cites Hoover & a single 1959 article in the “rightwing journal” National Review, then breathlessly states, “These criticisms are not anomalies” as though they represent an undercurrent within the conservative movement (which really was inaugurated by William F. Buckley Jr.)
Bernstein is only trying to tar today’s conservatism using the events of seven decades ago. Guilt by association in a truly extreme stretch.
Again, he’s 78 and, not satisfied with lifetime tenure, seeks yet fame & relevance in his declining years.
*** “The indefensibility of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima is becoming a part of the national conservative creed.”***
He would have a different opinion if HE would have been the first person in a landing craft shot dead when he stepped ashore in Japan! The A-bomb kept my dad, just back from Europe, from having to invade Japan.
The ONLY gripe they have about the Atomic bomb is it was one plane with one bomb that did all that damage.
If we had used 500 planes all loaded with firebombs and killed the same number of people people would say...”So what! it’s war!”
Just for the record, a day or two after the Nagasaki bombing we hit Japan with a large bombing force loaded with conventional bombs. Killed thousands and no one here complained.
***President Herbert Hoover Conservative?***
I found something about Hoover I didn’t know. During the 1901 Boxer siege of Peking and Tianjin China, Hoover and his wife were leaders instrumental in protecting Tianjin from extermination by the Boxers.
Good point. The Tokyo firebombing the night of March 9-10 killed more people than either Hiroshima or Nagasaki, maybe both. And most of them in a most horrible manner. But no one now mentions this, or probably even knows about it. All they care about is the A-bomb. And they lose sight of the fact that if a country goes to war, the whole country generally suffers. We lucked out because at the time the technology available just wasn’t quite enough to bridge the oceanic isolation of the Western Hemisphere (although in a few years that would have changed). Japan never did quite attain the jumping-off points to make direct attacks on the US mainland possible.
Hoover was a Conservative?
Hoover was a big government, center-left Republican who initiated many of the social welfare programs that Roosevelt included in the New Deal.
Hoover also raised taxes as the Great Depression began, which was economic and political lunacy, and would be rejected by all Conservatives today.
I don't know enough about Hoover to comment on his opposition to Truman's Fair Deal.
But, anyone who believes Truman was a “Plain Speaking” center-right Democrat needs to watch Truman's acceptance speech at the 1948 Democrat Convention.
By 1948, Truman was FDR on steroids.
Every center-left Republican in the country, including Tom Dewey, looked “Conservative” in comparison.
“At the time of its bombing, Hiroshima was a city of both industrial and military significance. A number of military units were located nearby, the most important of which was the headquarters of Field Marshal Shunroku Hata’s Second General Army, which commanded the defense of all of southern Japan, and was located in Hiroshima Castle. Hata’s command consisted of some 400,000 men, most of whom were on Kyushu where an Allied invasion was correctly anticipated. Also present in Hiroshima were the headquarters of the 59th Army, the 5th Division and the 224th Division, a recently formed mobile unit. The city was defended by five batteries of 7-and-8-centimeter (2.8 and 3.1 in) anti-aircraft guns of the 3rd Anti-Aircraft Division, including units from the 121st and 122nd Anti-Aircraft Regiments and the 22nd and 45th Separate Anti-Aircraft Battalions. In total, over 40,000 military personnel were stationed in the city.”
“The city of Nagasaki had been one of the largest seaports in southern Japan, and was of great wartime importance because of its wide-ranging industrial activity, including the production of ordnance, ships, military equipment, and other war materials. The four largest companies in the city were Mitsubishi Shipyards, Electrical Shipyards, Arms Plant, and Steel and Arms Works, which employed about 90% of the city’s labor force, and accounted for 90% of the city’s industry. Although an important industrial city, Nagasaki had been spared from firebombing because its geography made it difficult to locate at night with AN/APQ-13 radar.”
Thank you for your cogent argumentation.
I just read the Wiki entry on Hernert Hoover. An absolutely amazing American with a lifetime of achievements well into his eighties; he put the service into public service. Also known for hunger relief in Europe in not one but two world wars. A great humanitarian.
Too bad the popular memory of Hoover is that of a failed President who brought on the Depression (this can be argued but FDR’s policies were worse).
Any time Art. I will try not to be so “wordy” next time.