Monday, 9 August 2010

The bomb that ended the war

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....”

Read on here.


  • 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…”


  1. I remember being at school and one of the vile little anti-American leftists from the "peace movement" came to tell us that neither bomb needed to be dropped.

    Well it was a state school after all, and this was when the Labour Party was scaremongering about US nuclear ships.

    It has always astonished me how the militarist Shintoist cult of Japan's wartime leaders and their genocidal and rabidly imperialist approach to the rest of the world is glossed over by the Western lovers of peace. As if somehow that got defeated without the US being involved!

  2. the drunken watchman10 Aug 2010, 03:30:00

    YES, but ....

    wasn't the dropping of those bombs on cities a "deliberate targeting of innocent civilians", which when done by jihadists is described by, among others, GW Bush, as a cowardly and unacceptable act?

  3. This seems quite a cartoonish view of WW2. The Allies had become masters of holocaust, burning people alive in epic fire bomb raids against civilian centres. The atomic bombs were the ultimate weapon for this purpose and were, without doubt, war crimes. Even at the time this barbarity was called into question.

    If you can justify the deliberate mass killing of civilians with fire then one has to be somewhat forgiving of enemy atrocities. Why don't we continue to do it, considering it is so effective?

    Ever since the end of the war we have been barraged with tales of enemy atrocities in an effort to deflect attention away from our own and those of our 'friends', the Soviets.

  4. @Angl0American: I'm sorry you find the ending of the most destructive war in human hostory "cartoonish." If you think it could have been ended any other way, with any lesser loss of life--especially Allied lives-- then make that argument. I think you'll find that you can't.

    YOur suggestion that there is some kind of moral equivalence between those who started that violent and agressive war (Nazi Germany and Shinto Jopan) and those trying to end it is worse than cartoonish-it is an obscenity.

    @Drunken Watchmans: Bush's argument is one of the errors of talking about waging a "war on terror." WWII was a war of self-defence against two dangerous and particularly virulent aggressors. I'm fully persuaded by John Lewis's argument. Neither the Japanese nor the German citizens were entirely innocent; they were both complicit and even enthusiastic in their country's prosecution of aggressive war and vicious dictatorship. (Read any history about Japan's conquest of China if you want to understand the nature and domestic support of the Japanese regime; and Daniel Goldhagen's 'Hitler's Willing Executioners' to understand the level of support the Nazis had in the populace.) Both Nazi Germany and Shinto Japan were partakers of a "morality of death," with the enthusiastic support of their citizens, and "the need for total victory over the morality of death has never been clearer."

    Both citizenry wanted war; they were right behind it. And both of them had brought home to them in its full force and with its literal meaning the real destruction of war ; and as an almost indirect result we've now seen the most peaceful and beneficient transformation IN ALL HISTORY of two vicious dictatorships who couldn't be allowed to exist.

  5. the drunken watchman10 Aug 2010, 09:26:00

    PC, I'm not disputing the (supportive) mentality of the German and Japanese populaces.

    Simply saying that the jihadists can make the same argument, that they believe the citizenry of the USA is sufficiently supportive of what they (the jihadists) (rightly or wrongly)see as a proxy occupation of the Saudi peninsula, Western anti-Islamism etc etc.

    Targeting civilians is targeting civilians - since when did a newborn baby hold political views?

  6. @DW: There is a definite distinction between a peaceful nation acting in self-defence against an objective threat, and a bunch of thugs aggressiing against others under the pretext of some manufactured "harm."

    It's the latter that the jihadists operate under--and in the same way as Adolf Hitler was emboldened by being rewarded for using such pretexts, soo too have today's jihadists been emboldened by the very moral equivalence your argument relies upon.

    Targeting civilians is targeting civilians..." Well, yes it is. But "the responsibility for all deaths in war lies with the aggressor who initiates force, not with those who defend themselves."

    "The moral principle is this: the responsibility for all deaths in war lies with the aggressor who initiates force, not with those who defend."

    If you're concerned about the killing of innocent people in war, It has to be said that "this is a major reason people should be concerned about the nature of their government."

  7. War is so obviously horrific that it always seems harsh to speak in such terms, I know. But fortunately, however, war is not the normal mode of human life.

    Peaceful co-existence can and is possible, but only if aggressors are offered no possibility of reward for their aggression, and and the roots of war, the ideologies of statism and collectivism, are expunged.

    That's one reason at least to celebrate the outcome of WWII--from out of the two most militaristic nations in the modern world emerged two of the most peaceful and most productive.

    The lesson of that emergence must be among the least told, and and the most little understood--yet it must surely be among the most important in the modern world.

  8. drunken watchman, At war's end the Japanese Imperial Navy and other research agencies were working towards an atomic bomb. Seeing how the military regime never saw a weapon they didn't like and use, [chemical, biological or conventional], it's logical to assume they would have used it if they could. You see, they were not nice kind compassionate folks; they were a blight on the face of the earth. The US dealt to them with extreme prejudice and liberated the Japanese population from the total destruction that would have accompanied invasion.
    Imperial Japan sowed a breeze and reaped a whirlwind. Jihadists will one day wake up to learn a similar lesson, but it won't be from a history book. Evil will not limit itself, it has to be eliminated by force.


  9. Robert Winefield11 Aug 2010, 01:27:00

    "Surrender is a decision, by the political leadership and the dominant voices in the culture, to recognize the fact of defeat..."

    One of the best paragraphs I have ever read. And an effective antidote to the idiots like Pat Buchanan who argue that demanding unconditional surrender from the Nazis and the Shintoists (Death cults both) was unfair, unnecessary and prolonged the violence.

  10. Robert Winefield11 Aug 2010, 02:33:00

    I suppose I'd better post a reference that Buchanan charge. Given Buchanan's views on WWII, locating it is like trying to find a specific turd in a truck-load of raw sewage.

    "Never close off an enemy’s avenue of retreat. JFK gave Nikita Khrushchev a way out of Cuba, and nuclear war was averted. We did not offer the German generals who wanted to kill Hitler anything but “unconditional surrender.” So, Nazi Germany fought to the death and took untold millions of innocents down with them."

    Why is this buffoon important? Because he peddles an isolationist philosophy that I partly agree with. And he isn't the only one, many 'libertatians' hold to the same standard and Mr Buchanans: isolationism at any price.

    I do not believe in isolationism at any price.

    Standing up against nations or organizations infected with a cult of Death and possessed with the means to export it is vital to the long term security of any nation.

    And if that means taking pre-emptive actions then so be it. Had Hitler been opposed militarily prior to 1939, the German people may have foreseen that the fruits of aggression would be ashes in their mouths and would have been moved to remove him while it was still in their power to do so.

    And even if that is a pipe dream, the fact is that it is easier and less dangerous to kill a jackal when it is a pup.


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