Warren Kozak: A Hiroshima Apology?

Roundup: Talking About History

[Mr. Kozak is the author of "LeMay: The Life and Wars of General Curtis LeMay" (Regnery, 2009).]

For the first time since the United States dropped the atomic bomb on Japan 65 years ago, today the U.S. ambassador to Japan will attend the official commemoration ceremony at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial. The U.S. ambassador has always declined the annual invitation, but this year is different. President Barack Obama decided to acknowledge the event with the presence of a high-level dignitary. As State Department spokesman Philip Crowley explained, Ambassador John Roos will be there "to express respect for all the victims of World War II."

Gene Tibbets—the son of Brig. Gen. Paul W. Tibbets Jr., the pilot who dropped the bomb on Hiroshima—called the Obama administration's decision "an unsaid apology." Whether or not that's the case, by saying "all the victims" Mr. Crowley raises the specter of moral equivalence, a problem that's grown worse over the years when it comes to judging right and wrong during World War II and throughout history.

The U.S. dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945. When the Japanese still didn't give up, the U.S. dropped a second bomb on Nagasaki three days later. On Aug. 15, the Japanese surrendered unconditionally, ending the most brutal war in the history of the world.

Japan remains the only country ever to have been targeted by atomic bombs. More than 120,000 Japanese died instantly from the bombings and perhaps as many succumbed to radiation poisoning afterwards (the exact number will never be known). It should be noted that when President Harry Truman was considering whether to invade Japan instead of dropping the bombs, his advisers estimated that an invasion would result in one million American casualties and at least two million Japanese deaths. In the strange calculus of war, the bombs actually saved Japanese lives.

If the Obama administration wants to ease the friction over this event or even to apologize, then perhaps it is also a good time for the Japanese government to begin to discuss World War II truthfully with its own people...

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