Skip to comments.Thank God for the Atom Bomb
Posted on 08/06/2015 9:10:04 PM PDT by 2ndDivisionVet
The title of this short piece is actually the title of an essay by Paul Fussell, the writer, literary and cultural critic who just passed away at the age of 88. His New York Times obituary notes his withering scorn for the romanticization of war, which was due, in part, to his own experience of battle in World War II as an infantryman wounded in southeastern France. His most well-known book is probably The Great War and Modern Memory (about World War I), of which Steven Hayward at Power Line says:
Fussell managed the extraordinary feat of weaving together a spare account of the salient military and political facts with a sweeping survey of the literary impact of the Great War, in neither case overdoing it.
Hayward calls Fussell a typical postwar liberal, a description that I wasnt aware of when I encountered his essay Thank God for the Atom Bomb. In it, he fiercely defends the decision to drop the atomic bombs that ended World War II.
I want to consider something suggested by the long debate about the ethics, if any, of that ghastly affair, he wrote on the 42nd anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Namely, the importance of experience, sheer, vulgar experience, in influencing, if not determining, ones views about that use of the atom bomb Im talking about having to come to grips, face to face, with an enemy who designs your death .Arthur T. Hadley said recently that those for whom the use of the A-bomb was wrong seem to be implying that it would have been better to allow thousands on thousands of American and Japanese infantrymen to die in honest hand-to-hand combat on the beaches than to drop those two bombs. People holding such views, he notes, do not come from the ranks of society that produce infantrymen or pilots.'
Fussell went on to argue that those who did have firsthand experience of World War II combat were not elaborately educated, and thus were unlikely to articulate the benefits of dropping the bombs when critics, who had been nowhere near the wars devastation, heaped scorn on the decision to use atomic bombs on Japan.
In general, the principle is, the farther from the scene of horror, the easier the talk, wrote Fussell of those who wrung their hands over the bomb decision after the fact.
In his essay, Fussell spoke for those not elaborately educated fighting men. He took on the bombs critics with a muscular ferocity, and I found myself cheering him on with every paragraph I read. The argument that people of conscience even soldiers recoiled from the bombs punishing blows, Fussell dismissed as canting nonsense. The purpose of the bombs was not to punish people, but to stop the war.
At the very end of the essay, Fussell reveals his liberal stripes with some criticism of Ronald Reagan and nuclear policy, but up until that moment, I was marching with him, saying a dozen or more silent hear, hears. I urge readers to get hold of this excellent essay before the bomb anniversaries this summer.
I have my own personal reasons for saying Thank God for the atom bomb. My father was on a ship in the Pacific when the bombs were dropped. He, along with his other Army comrades, would probably have been involved in the invasion of Japan had the war not been ended those first weeks of August 1945.
RIP, Paul Fussell, and thank you for speaking for the not elegantly educated man who was my father.
Libby Sternberg is a novelist.
millions and millions of japanese would have died, and hundreds of thousands of our guys would have died, if those bombs were not dropped.
He did tell us (much to my older uber-liberal sister's displeasure) more than a few times how much he was pleased by the nuking. He pointed out that I would not have been born had be been in on a Japan home island invasion.
In retirement I am always motivated to study WW II history because of the men I grew up around and admired. At about nine my father began taking me out golfing with him on the weekends and most everyone we played with was a veteran. I remember there was a man who used the first golf cart I ever saw, because as a brigade commander of the 41st infantry in New Guinea he was permanently debilitated by sickness. One fairly good golfer had a weird back swing, because he was crippled while serving with the Big Red One in Sicily. Later I often ended up as a dishwasher at our country club. The chef noticed my puzzled look as he limped around the kitchen. He said he got the limp from a wound received when he was with the Rangers at Pointe De Hoc.
There are many other stories I overheard and could relate, but one consistently repeated theme was how their unit or ship was scheduled for the Japan invasion. They always thanked God they didnt have to become fodder for that killing machine. Therefore I developed and now rework from suggestions I receive and from additional sources this narrative about dropping the atomic bombs. I also break it into six letters I send to papers.
We now mark the 70th anniversary of VJ-Day preceded by dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki to end World War II. The generations which made the decisions for that war have left us. The generation which endured the cruel tragedies required for carrying out those decisions is rapidly leaving us.
As this personal knowledge becomes ever rarer, we must increasingly listen without their response to revisionists who present asymmetrical, contra-factual analyses about what a needless, tragic and profoundly immoral decision the United States had made. These views must be countered by presenting the history that the Greatest Generation, and their parents and grandparents lived into and through.
In support of dropping the atomic bombs, historians often cite the inevitability of horrifying casualties if troops had landed on the home islands. They extrapolate from 17,000 American and over 265,000 Japanese deaths on Saipan and Okinawa to estimates of 500,000 American and millions of Japanese deaths for mainland invasions.
Such estimates arise from studies preceding the full recognition by planning staffs of the American experiences on Saipan, Iwo Jima and Okinawa. Yet even these estimates are over twelve times the dead suffered by Americans during D-Day, The Battle of the Bulge, Saipan, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa combined. Through these and other battles the American people had absorbed a profound shock caused by a million combat deaths since June 1944 compared to a quarter million in the previous two and a half years.
Such estimates could have substantially understated casualties. Kyushu and Honshu at over 100,000 rugged square miles mathematically enable at least 500 vast redoubts; complex fortifications comparable to that General Ushijima constructed to inflict most losses on Okinawa. This rapid increase in killing efficiency extended to stubborn defense of major cities just as the Germans carried out in Berlin, where 81,000 Russians died and 280,000 were wounded.
The Japanese would be ready and waiting for the Americans, because the island hopping strategy had ended. Hard experience had taught them to identify the few regions within their mountainous country that could accommodate the huge armies and air forces needed to subdue the main islands. Intelligence reports already noted repositioning of divisions into southern Honshu to counter the first phase of the invasion.
The Japanese War Faction resolved to wage a total war of upmost savagery rather than contemplate the shameful reality of surrender. They maintained the honorable sacrifice of 20 million Japanese was essential for planning final mainland battles. This limitless, barbaric, squalid, slaughter would inflict millions of casualties grinding the Americans into a stalemate that would convince them to abandon the Potsdam Declaration. In preparation they had redeployed veteran Kwantung divisions from China, and mobilized home defense armies. They drafted able citizens 17-60 years old into the Peoples Volunteer Corps and Home Defense Units to assume infrastructure duties of army units and stay behind invaders for suicide mission using light weapons and explosives. Any food shortages caused by the blockage would first call for killing of allied prisoners in the home islands, and then as many of their own people as necessary to sustain their armies and civilian militia.
The decision to invade also had to include assessment of Japans nuclear program. Here the general thrust of American intelligence analysis said an enemy always pursues the highest use of any capability. If Japanese atomic research was successful, here was a compelling reason to avoid invasion and drop the bombs. A kamikaze plane or submarine could detonate a bomb within the invasion fleet. Alternatively, devices could reside beneath peasants huts to devastate the buildup of forces in southern Honshu or the Tokyo plain.
As WW II began, the U.S. knew Japanese intellectuals included accomplished physicists such as Yoshio Nishina. They knew he was a staunch Imperial nationalist and a capable leader, so capable two of his students later won Nobel prizes. They knew he built Japans first cyclotron in 1940.
The next American insight into Japans progress came in May 1945 as Germany surrendered. Admiral Doenitz ordered all submarines to proceed to allied ports. The U-234 proceeded to Portsmouth where the Navy discovered its cargo contained 560 kilos of uranium oxide intended for the Japanese army.
However, much was then unknown because America found wartime Japan generally impenetrable except for cryptographic intelligence. Interrogators discovered Nishina was given a substantial budget to build an atomic bomb. Research for uranium extraction and enrichment proceeded in Japan until the Americans reached Tinian and B-29s could reach Japan. Then further efforts were concentrated at the huge nuclear facility in Hungnam North Korea. Korea was also a source for uranium ore. One day after the Nagasaki bomb, Japan exploded an experimental nuclear device off the coast of Hungnam.
The Japanese had capabilities beyond the speculations of planning staffs. The increasingly feeble response to B-29 bombing missions caused the U.S. to significantly underestimate the swarms of kamikaze airplanes with sufficient aviation fuel concealed for one way trips to attack the amphibious invasion fleet. Only after occupation did the U.S. become aware of a larger than anticipated fleet of suicide boats and mini-submarines stockpiled for the invasion. Americans also faced biological warfare. Occupation searchers uncovered large stockpiles of viruses, spirochetes, and fungus spores throughout rural Japan. These biological pathogens had already been tested on several hundred thousand in Chinese villages and on prisoners of war. Civilian soldiers were to stay behind advancing Americans to infuse pathogens into food and waters sources, to release infected animals and insects into American compounds, and to infect themselves with choleras and plaque germs.
If there was any alternative, Harry Truman, Henry Stimson, and George Marshall were not about to procure countless American deaths in protracted ground campaigns following amphibious assaults matching the D-Day landings. Truman contemplated increasingly dire estimates causing him to reflect on the possibility of an Okinawa from one end of Japan to the other. After VE day Stimson perceived the first signs of war weariness and said, the country will not be satisfied unless every effort is made to shorten the war. General Marshall said, War is the most terrible tragedy of the human race and should not be prolonged an hour longer than absolutely necessary.
As far as they and the country were concerned, the only innocent civilian lives at stake were the American citizen soldiers, sailors, and airmen who would have had to invade Japan. The Greatest Generation and their parents would have been enraged to discover a cabal had ignored the nuclear option for ending the war simply to indulge some incestuous moral orthodoxy.
Revisionists claim Japan was seeking surrender, but history reveals Japanese negotiation initiatives proved too vacuous to make dropping the bombs unnecessary. These supposed negotiations cite proposals Foreign Minister Togo directed Ambassador Sato to offer to Molotov. In those proposals, Japan intended bribing the Russians into neutrality with conquered Chinese territory. The Soviets would then mediate settlement terms preserving visions of peace with honor. This vision contemplated maintaining Japans Imperial, militaristic national structure and retaining the core empire of Home Islands, Manchuria, Korea and Formosa. The first June 29 contacts ignored attributes of surrender with proposals the Russians considered too vague to answer. The August 2 proposals accepted the Potsdam Declaration as only one basis for further study.
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 reading Magic confirmed Togos Russian contacts were ineffectual. American intelligence also knew those involving Allen Dulles in Switzerland lacked any Japanese Cabinet knowledge or interest.
The pattern of Japanese contacts demonstrated an unwillingness to accept any responsibility for understanding Western expectations for negotiation strategies. The fact America had destroyed its navy, massacred its island garrisons, and bombed its cities into cinders should have prompted Japanese proposals embracing a Western style of clarity. They ignored their manifest obligation to bring forward substantive questions and proposals, and chose to greet the Potsdam Declaration with silence.
Instead the Japanese Privy Council debated the Final Battles arguments into utter physical and mental exhaustion for eleven hours following the Nagasaki bomb on August 9. For the final meeting, Hirohito reluctantly invited Baron Hiranuma, who had always fiercely disapproved of the war strategy ending with Pearl Harbor, but as a renowned prosecutor could also ask hard questions. He asked Foreign Minister Togo to consider whether he had ever made concrete proposals to the Russians. He asked the war ministers if they had any counter measures to the relentless air attacks by the American Army and Navy. Hiranuma reminded Hirohito that the Emperors spiritual essence was the foundation for Japans future, enduring independent of any government imposed by surrender, and asked whether a final battle necessarily preserved that spiritual essence. There was no rebuttal to his questions, but the War Faction remained unyielding.
Here was illuminated the critical role Kokutai played in surrender. Any prominent Japanese lived within an intimate spiritual three dimensional fabric of Emperor, citizen, land, Bushido, ancestral spirits, government, and Shinto religion. In subjection to this merging of spiritual and political authority, the average citizen forfeited individuality and was drafted into a collective soul defining Japan. All able citizens served as soldiers or as civilian militia and awaited the decision of the Empires ruling oligarchy. With such a national unity committed to waging a savage total war, the atomic bombs were no longer indiscriminate or disproportional.
Emperor Hirohito foresaw the probability of defeat during January 1944 and appointed a Peace Faction within the national government. However, he and his government conducted political kabuki through twenty months of continuous defeats, fire bombings of over 60 cities, looming starvation, and 1.3 million additional Japanese deaths.
At impasse the two atomic bombs allowed Hirohito, the Son of Heaven, to speak the Voice of the Crane in the sweltering, underground bunker. The bombs could be regarded as a force of nature equivalent to an earthquake or typhoon against which even a god/king was helpless. Only submission to such a force of nature could be proportional to the absolute disgrace of surrender following over 2,600 years of martial invincibility. Only Hirohito could make that submission, because he held the sacred, heaven created throne inherited from Imperial ancestors. He would bear the unbearable, conclude the war, and transform the nation.
The atomic bombs event removed the Final Battles argument allowing the War Faction to relent, allowing Hirohito to assume his unprecedented roll, and requiring no one to lose face. Their cabal remained within the fabric of Japanese from all eras who had sacrificed for Emperor and Empire. Only then did Japan contact Swiss and Swedish foreign offices to commence negotiations with allied belligerents.
In their first meeting, when MacArthur praised Hirohito for ending the war. The Emperor replied others also deserved praise. Yet, as Hirohito confirmed to McArthur, the Peace Faction could not have prevailed until the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki created a situation which could be dramatized.
The atomic bombs accomplished the requirements of unconditional surrender though Japan was allowed to keep their Emperor. By accepting the Potsdam Declaration, Japan abandoned the militarism that had committed the country to Asian conquest. The Emperors and the governments authority became subject to the Supreme Allied Commander. Their authority was later subject to the Japanese peoples free expression for determining a post war government that eradicated multi-millennial martial and Imperial characteristics.
The Americans who suffered through two bloody deluges in the twentieth century approached the summer of 1945 with several imperatives. They would not tolerate the moral failures of a negotiated peace requiring anything less than total submission, after witnessing the feeble responses to a resurgent Germany. Allowing a blockade to operate interminably, while deferring to the War Faction any decision about whether Japanese and allied prisoner deaths met their 20 million standard was intolerable. Allowing months of diplomatic dithering to accompany additional hundreds of thousands of civilian and military deaths throughout Asia was intolerable. Allowing the opportunity for Japans nuclear program to produce atomic weapons was frightening.
Allowing the premeditated ignorance of revisionists center stage as the first person experiences of the Greatest Generation and their parents and grandparents dies away must remain intolerable.
Hell to Pay, D. M. Giangreco
The Atomic Bomb and the End of WW II, The National Security Archive
Japanese Biomedical Experimentation During the WW II Era, Sheldon H. Harris, PhD
Japans Imperial Conspiracy, David Bergamni
Target Tokyo: The Story of the Sorge Spy Ring, Gordon Prange
The Secret Surrender, Allen Dulles
Hirohito, Edward Behr
Japans Secret War: Japans Race Against Time to Build Its Own Atomic Bomb,
Robert K Wilcox
Battle of Okinawa
Cornerstone of Peace (Okinawa)
Over 240,000 names recorded including
Battle of Iwo Jima
The Battle of the Bulge
Battle of Berlin Facts
Japan geography: http://www.nationsencyclopedia.com/geography/Indonesia-to-Mongolia/Japan.html
Okinawa redoubt was about 100 sq mi
Allied POWS Under the Japanese
Military prisoners were 34,000 in Japan, 70,000 outside Japan, and 112,000 civilians. There were already 142,000 Anglos and Pilipino victims of criminal killings.
Statistics of Japanese Democide Estimates, Calculations, And Sources*
As a tactic of administering conquered lands, the Japanese had murdered 6 million Asians from 1937 to 1945.
Declassified photos - ‘B-29’ “Enola Gay” -—— WWll
Point of No Return by Wilbur H. Morrison
Hiroshima 71,379 dead, 68,023 seriously injured; Nagasaki 35,000 dead 60,000 injured
More B-29 crewmen died in accidents than through enemy action
2ndD ...... I was 16 when WWII ended. If the bombs had not been dropped, I could have been part of the main invasion and only God knows how that would turned out if the war continued for a few more years. I am personally thankful for ending the war this way.
I was born in 1960 but never felt part of that Baby Boomer generation in just about any way. My father stayed in and was also in Korea and Vietnam.
By the way here is the link to the article mentioned.
Liberals complained at how long it took longer to fight in Iraq (not against the Iraqi government, however) than it did to win WWII.
I always reminded them that it took 2 nuclear bombs to end WWII when it did end.
They also said that Saddam Hussein kept down the terrorism within Iraq but denounced any activity that even hinted at being a human rights abuse (the kind of which Saddam had boat loads).
I have been watching the Smithsonian channel the past couple evenings. They’ve ran a lot of documentaries about the Okinawan campaign and then tonight about the dropping of the two atomic bombs.
The taking of Okinawa was bloody enough but having to face the kamikazes whilst doing it just boggles my mind. Had an uncle who was on the Enterprise when it was hit and he mentioned it only once. The story he told me made made my hair stand on end. And so did a lot of the other stories on the TV the past couple days.
The way I see it, the atomic bombs hastened the end of the war and saved far more lives than they took. Plus, Japan started it and then refused to quit when they were quite beaten. Too bad, so sad-now get over it. Besides, after the war was over we rebuilt them into an economic powerhouse so they can flat go straight to Hell if that’s not enough!
I still thank God that He knew how to make men like your father and all of the rest that fought in that war. Same for Korea, Vietnam and all the rest. You are all owed so much more than we have given you.
My brother was killed on Okinawa. I was on Leyte picking up my gear for the invasion of Japan. The first bomb gave us some satisfaction. When the second bomb was dropped we were hoping. When the Japs surrendered we celebrated. I’m sure the bombs gave the Japs what they deserved over many years of cruel warfare. At least I am sure I survived WWII because of the bombs. No regrets on my part because the Japs(wartime names) were very mean people at the time.
My 5th grade teacher and a few other men I knew were Bataan Death March survivors. The Japanese could’ve lost 20 cities to nuclear fire and still not have been punished enough.
When the nuclear bomb gets used next time, it will be against America, and against Israel. Many of us will consider it God’s justified wrath when it comes.
If we did not have the atomic bomb the best way to end the war with Japan would have been slow systematic genocide. We had total mastery of the air. They had no oil to make aviation gas for their fighters.
It would have been quite simple and would have taken a few years. Bomb each and every industrial site, hospital, government entity, military site, and anything that could support a functioning society. Anything that relates to agriculture should be destroyed, a civilian boat fishing for food must be destroyed, its home port must be destroyed, fire bomb all the minor cities, we had already destroyed the big ones. Disease and starvation would have killed millions before we put one damn soldier on the home Islands of Japan.
The Japanese should get down on their knees and bless the atom bomb. The atom bomb gave the Emperor and the war lords a “face saving way” to declare surrender. Otherwise their fate would have been as above.
My father’s friend’s head was chopped off with a Japanese sword. The Japanese had a low tolerance for attempted escape. We had a low tolerance about surrender. Perhaps it would have been a better day if they did not surrender.
If such there would be no Japan today.
I do not really know if that would be good or bad. They are our absolute and staunch ally today, but has their internal culture changed? When it comes to racism they make the KKK look like amateurs.
On the other hand look at the Japanese that came to the USA before and after the War. We could not ask for better and loyal and more productive citizens. My daughter in law’s grandfather put on the uniform of the United States Army and fought in WWII. His father was in a concentration camp in California while he fought for the USA, courtesy of President Roosevelt.
We lived in strange times and continue to live in strange times today.
A wonderful read: poignant, passionate and informative. Thank you!
What would Truman have done had be beer president when Muslims murdered 3000 Americans 9/11?
Beer-BEEN..darn Kindle lol
“When the nuclear bomb gets used next time, it will be against America, and against Israel. Many of us will consider it Gods justified wrath when it comes.”
And many others of us will consider that as Obama’s legacy and “fundamental transformation of America” ...
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