Andrew B. Wilson: Saved by the Bomb

Roundup: Media's Take

[Andrew B. Wilson, a former Business Week bureau chief in Dallas and London, is a freelance writer living in St. Louis, Missouri.]

In looking for superlatives to describe the two-day Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, D.C., U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called it "the largest (such) conference (hosted by the United States) since the one that came together (in San Francisco) around the founding of the United Nations in 1945."

There is some irony in linking the two events.

The San Francisco Conference attracted more than 7,000 participants from around the world, including 282 delegates and 1,444 accredited officials from 50 nations.

As the delegates met in May and June of 1945, the war in the Pacific was far from over and -- even though Germany had surrendered on May 7 -- it seemed that the European continent could be poised on the brink of another disastrous war. The fact that a third world war did not follow hard on the heels of World War II had little to do with the formation of a new world organization dedicated to the peaceful resolution of conflicts between nations… and it had everything to do with the explosion of the first atomic bombs. Western Civilization -- it may be argued -- was saved by the bomb.

In the closing months of the war in Europe, the United States did not have sufficient forces on the ground in Europe to beat the Soviets to Prague and Berlin, and the U.S. command, in any case, was still hoping to enlist Soviet assistance against Japan. Thus, even as Germany fell, Eastern Europe and most of the Balkans came under Soviet domination Still more, as the United States turned its attention to the Pacific theatre, the rest of Europe had little to protect it against the menacing presence of the Red Army, with more than two million soldiers.

In words that would reappear in a more poetic and memorable way in a speech to be given eight months later, Winston Churchill, a few days after V-E Day, sent this note to his Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden, who was attending the U.N. conference in San Francisco:

Today there are announcements in the newspapers of large withdrawals of American forces to begin month by month. What are we to do? Great pressure will soon be put on us at home to demobilize partially. In a very short time our armies will have melted, but the Russians may remain with hundreds of divisions in possession of Europe from Luebeck to Trieste, and to the Greek Frontier on the Adriatic. All these things are far more vital than the amendments to a World Constitution which may well never come into being till it is superseded after a period of appeasement by a third World War.

Averell Harriman, U.S. ambassador to Moscow at this time, voiced the same view. He told U.S. Navy Secretary James Forrestal that "half and maybe all of Europe might be Communist by the end of next winter."

More than bringing about Japan's surrender, the atomic bombs that were dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August of 1945 fundamentally altered the balance of power within Europe. With the United States in sole possession of a weapon that could obliterate whole cities or armies, it placed our closest allies under the cheap but effective protection of American nuclear power...

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Arnold Shcherban - 5/5/2010

The Western civilization, i.e.
the best, the "right" part of it (as if socialism and communism along with the millions of Jews, Gypsies, Poles have not been a part of that civilization) was saved by nuclear annihilation of two Japanese cities together with hundreds of thousands of their citizens.
It was saved, you mind, not from Nazi's millennium Third Reich by heroic effort of people of Soviet Republics and the Red Army who with the important material help coming from the US and UK broke the spine of Nazi's war machine even before Normandy's invasion, which together with the decisive victories of the same Red Army brought the war in Europe to its victorious end, the Army that later demolished the largest Japanese Kwantung Army with about one million personnel, thus (along with US victories in Pacific) basically securing Allies' victory over Japan, as well, even before the
nuclear Armageddon staged by the US.
No, the Western civilization, was saved from the Red Army hordes, that
would waste no time conquering the entire European continent, terrorizing its civilian population, and finally enslaving the latter,... if not for the American Savior although it(him?) came in somewhat peculiar images - Little Boy and Fat Man.
Does any evidence to such apocalyptic prognosis exists or ever have been found in either Western or Soviet (now - Russian) archives.
No,... but the author tells the reader (actually he treats that prognosis as axiomatic truth) it would have definitely happened, so the reader should believe him.
By the way, what the author apparently
didn't notice is his strong contribution to establishing the conclusion made by his ideological adversaries long ago: the hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians were used as sacrificial lambs not so much to force Japan to surrender, as to scare the Soviets.
At least something we are all apparently agree on...