Friday marked the 65th anniversary of the bomb that ended the Pacific War against Japan—a war that cost four years, 400,000 men and almost the entire economic production of the western world to bring to a successful close.
But talk of the bomb that ended the war almost always comes these days with a whole lot of tut-tutting—mostly because the blessed absence of world wars on that scale for sixty-five years has allowed us to forget a whole other context that usually gets dropped when history’s sanitisers start talking about the war and the two bombs that ended it: first, the nature of the enemy we were fighting, and that would have kept on fighting without it; and second, (as Robert Tracinski notes) “all of the lives that were made possible because of that bomb,” including both Allied and Japanese. “That's what Paul Kengor does in the perfectly guilt-free article below.”
"Grateful to Harry," Paul Kengor, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, August 4
Truman's decision to drop the A-bomb saved millions -- Americans and Japanese
This week marks 65 years since the United States dropped the atomic bomb…
Truman's objective was to compel surrender from an intransigent enemy that refused to halt its naked aggression. The barbarous mentality of 1940s Japan was beyond belief. An entire nation had lost its mind, consumed by a ferocious militarism and hellbent on suicide. Facing such fanaticism, Truman felt no alternative but to use the bomb. As George C. Marshall put it, the Allies needed something extraordinary "to shock [the Japanese] into action." Nothing else was working. Japan was committed to a downward death spiral, with no end in sight.
We had to end the war," said a desperate Marshall later. "We had to save American lives."
Evidence shows the bomb achieved precisely that, saving millions of lives, not merely Americans but Japanese. The Japanese themselves acknowledged this, from the likes of Toshikazu Kase to Emperor Hirohito himself. Kase was among the high-level officials representing Japan at its formal surrender aboard the USS Missouri. "The capitulation of Japan," Kase said definitively, "saved the lives of several million men."
As we mark the anniversary of this period, we should first and foremost think about those boys—our fathers, grandfathers, great-grandfathers, uncles, brothers, some now in their 80s and 90s—who lived lives of faith and freedom and family because of Truman's decision. I've met many of them. Any time I find myself in conversation with a World War II vet, I ask where he was when the first bomb hit.
“I'll tell you where I was!" snapped George Oakes of Churchill. "I was a 22-year-old kid on a troop transport preparing to invade the Japanese mainland....”
RELATED POSTS & ARTICLES:
- The Moral Lesson of Hiroshima, John Lewis
“The bombings marked America's total victory over a militaristic culture that had murdered millions. To return an entire nation to morality, the Japanese had to be shown the literal meaning of the war they had waged against others…
“Americans should be immensely proud of the bomb. It ended a war that had enslaved a continent to a religious-military ideology of slavery and death.
“There is no room on earth for this system, its ideas and its advocates.
“It took a country that values this world to bomb this system into extinction.
For the Americans to do so while refusing to sacrifice their own troops to save the lives of enemy civilians was a sublimely moral action. This destroyed the foundations of the war, and allowed the Japanese to rebuild their culture along with their cities, as prosperous inhabitants of the earth. Were it true that total victory today creates new attackers tomorrow, we would now be fighting Japanese suicide bombers, while North Korea-where the American army did not impose its will-would be peaceful and prosperous. The facts are otherwise. The need for total victory over the morality of death has never been clearer.”
- “Gifts from Heaven”: The Meaning of the American Victory over Japan, 1945 – John Lewis
“The victory over Japan remains America’s greatest foreign policy success. Today, we take for granted a peaceful, productive, mutually beneficial relationship with the Japanese people. But this friendship was earned with blood, struggle, and an unrepentant drive to victory. The beneficent occupation of Japan—during which not one American was killed in hostile military action—and the corresponding billions in American aid were entirely post-surrender phenomena. Prior to their surrender, the Japanese could expect nothing but death from the Americans.
“If there is one historical event that every American should study, beyond the American Revolution and the Civil War, it is America’s victory over Japan in World War II…”