Warren Kozak: The Hiroshima Rorschach Test
On this day 64 years ago, an American B-29 named the Enola Gay dropped an atomic bomb over the city of Hiroshima. We know that as many as 80,000 Japanese died instantly. We know the city was pulverized, and we know that an estimated 100,000 additional people died later from radiation poisoning. We also are aware that the Hiroshima bomb, and the Nagasaki bomb dropped three days later, ushered in the atomic era....
...At the time that the bombs were dropped, battle-hardened G.I.s were being rotated from Europe back to the U.S. and then sent on to staging areas in the Pacific. The first wave of the invasion under the command of Gen. Douglas MacArthur was scheduled to land in November 1945, with a second wave in March 1946. Hospitals were being quickly built in the Mariana Islands to accommodate the thousands of expected wounded. What Americans eventually found in Japan after the surrender more than proved that Japan was preparing to repel the invasion, not just with its military but with civilian suicide squads as well.
The debate over the bomb reached a crescendo 14 years ago when the Smithsonian Institution produced a retrospective that veteran groups objected to because they believed it focused too much on the victims and not on the reasons for the bomb's use. The exhibit was ultimately cancelled. Then, this past spring, comedian Jon Stewart touched off his own firestorm when he labeled President Harry Truman a "war criminal" for ordering the bombs to be dropped. Mr. Stewart later apologized.
The fact that the quick end to the war allowed the U.S. to avoid a land invasion of the Japanese mainland, thus saving many more lives, is quickly tossed aside by some critics. They say there is no basis for the estimates of large numbers of casualties. But then there is the appalling number of Asians who were dying at the hands of the Japanese. Upwards of a quarter-of-a-million were dying each month. The fact that this orgy of death—17 million died in all—came to an abrupt halt when the Imperial Army was finally forced to go home is rarely mentioned.
Perhaps the simplest and most compelling argument for the bombs is the main reason President Truman decided to drop them in the first place: He hoped it would rattle Japan enough to force it to surrender. That is exactly what happened.
Today, Hiroshima has become a Rorschach test for Americans. We see the same pictures and we hear the same facts. But based on how we view our country, our government, and the world, we interpret these facts in very different ways...
comments powered by Disqus
Arnold Shcherban - 8/8/2009
<But then there is the appalling number of Asians who were dying at the hands of the Japanese.>
Commending the author for such a deep compassion with continental Asians (the compassion he somehow lacks towards hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians killed over US barbaric (and unprecendented in history up to now) bombing of all Japanese major and small cities (while Japan did not do a micro-fraction of anything like that to American cities and its civilains), I would like to remind him that those Asians were saved not by dropping of the US A-bombs, but by the Peoples Armies of those Asian nations themselves and by Russian Red Army that crushed almost 1-Mil Japanese Chantun Army right before Japan's unconditional surrender.
Even the territory of today's South Korea was presented by Russians troops to Americans as a noble gesture, by cleaning that territory from Japanese first and then waiting for the US troops to descend on the continent and occupy their part.
(By the way, the same can be said about Vienna -the Austrian capital -
that was freed by the Red Army, but then handed into possession of the Western Allies.) The US, on the other hand, never did, and never would do anything comparably noble act towards
either the Soviet Union or any other
of its ideological and politically adversarial temporary allies.
So, your "compassion card" is obsolete and beaten.
- Russian History Receives a Makeover That Starts With Ivan the Terrible
- Parsing Ronald Reagan’s Words for Early Signs of Alzheimer’s
- Here's a look at history of 'religious freedom' laws
- ‘Hamilton’ Puts Politics Onstage and Politicians in Attendance
- Earth Tectonic Plate Simulation Reveals Our Planet Has Changed A Lot In 200 Million Years
- Historians make it easy for visitors to DC to understand the history of the Mall
- History's Grandin Wins Bancroft Prize for "The Empire of Necessity"
- Nobel prize-winning scientist writes a history of science
- Ken Burns tackles history of cancer
- If historians have their way, Americans will soon learn how important religion has been in US history