August 6th, 1945

Sixty four years ago, at about 8:15 this morning, the Enola Gay dropped the first atomic weapon ever used in war on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. An estimated 80,000 people perished in just moments from the blast and the fireball, while untold thousands more died later, or were maimed for life from the effects of the radiation. The horrors of nuclear war were demonstrated to the world in such a hideous fashion that the memory of Hiroshima and Nagasaki will doubtlessly last forever.

As a lifelong student of the Marine’s WWII pacific campaign, I have long held the attitude that the bombs were necessary to end the war and save American lives. I still hold that view for the most part. Even a cursory study of the fierce resistance that the Japanese were famous for should make it abundantly clear what the result would have been if Americans had found it necessary to land on mainland Japan. When the Marines took Tarawa in November 1943, only 17 of the original 4,000 man Japanese garrison surrendered. At Iwo Jima the Japanese fought ferociously for 36 days, and by the battle’s end less than 5% had survived.

American invasion plans of the Japanese homeland included a half million white crosses – to bury the Americans expected to die in the fighting. God only knows how many Japanese, including civilians, would have perished as well.

The bombs saved both American and Japanese lives, I have no doubt. But being such a softy when it comes to children, I have always wondered if it wouldn’t have been possible to spare the civilian targets and chose instead a target where so many innocents would not have lost their lives. As crowded as Japan is, I suppose that wasn’t possible.


tom said...

Japanese Army ORDERED the civilian population of the island of Saipan in the Mariana Islands to kill themselves and their children rather than endure the shame of being captured. Unable to reach the Japanese villagers in time to stop this atrocity, American marines could only watch as hundreds of Japanese mothers threw their children off a cliff onto the coral below and then followed them. These child murders and civilian suicides were praised and encouraged back in Japan.

I wouldn't sweat it. So they all got a bucket o' sunshine. They ATE a bunch of Diggers and Americans when they had food available. GW Bush's rear-seat man was one of the ones that was decapitated and then the Officers of the outfit that captured him all shared his fried liver at a party in the O-Club with lots of sake, as I recall from one of my Pacific War books.

They should have behaved better towards non-combatants and I might have some sympathy. As they didn't, I don't.

tom said...

On the same tangent, just saw some Goldwater Quotes (who I'm proud my dad voted for) at Arthur's Hall:

"If I had inherited the mess that Johnson got into, I would have said to North Vietnam, by dropping leaflets out of B-52s, "You quit the war in three days or the next time these babies come over there going to drop some big bombs on you." And I'd make a swamp out of North Vietnam... I'd rather kill a hell of a lot of North Vietnamese than one American and we've lost enough of them."

"You've got to forget about this civilian. Whenever you drop bombs, you're going to hit civilians."

"To insist on strength is not war-mongering. It is peace-mongering."

Don't have to be happy about civilian deaths but it's part of war.

GunRights4US said...

I make a distinction between the Imperial Japanese Army that committed those crimes, and the civilians that were merely trying to survive the war.

That our enemies were savages does not justify savagery on our part. I agree with unrestrained and total war being waged on military forces or oppressive governments; not on non-combatants, Goldwater's comments not withstanding.

The Other Mike S. said...

As you noted, estimates were that over 1 million would have been lost with a traditional invasion. Having to drop the nuke must have been torturous, but not having done so would have been almost criminal.

GunRights4US said...

As a side note, my father was on Saipan and witnessed firsthand the civilian suicides. He kept photographs that he took personally of the bodies of women and children; photos that have never been published, and if you ever saw them they would turn your stomach.

tom said...

Most people's stomachs maybe, my dad is Lt. Col USAF(Retired) and VA Path Lab and later hospital Chief of Staff in various places. Drafted out of medical school. Specialty-PATHOLOGY. I grew up looking at such photos and such images were often dinnertime conversation when I was a kid. Just saying...

As to the non-combatant thing, I was pointing out if we didn't kill them they very well might have killed themselves anyway so what of it?

Japan should have known:

Don't pick a fight you know you can't win. Don't commit atrocities and people are less likely to give your towns buckets of sunshine.

We treated the Nipponese pretty well in comparison to how they treated anybody. As to civilian deaths--Long time family Friends Hildegard and Werner were children in Hamburg and Dresden, respectively, during the firebombing raids...

They hated America so much for what they had done in the fire bombings that they spent the first 5 years after April 1945 working very hard to try to emigrate to the USA where they might be able to build a life away from totalitarians before being approved. Had to get to Canada first and then eventually they managed to emigrate to the US. Learned English, worked hard to assimilate into the culture America USED to have, and have had long successful lives here with Werner eventually making it to near top executive level at Motorola. They held no grudges in spite of Dresden and Hamburg. They knew the US and UK did what they had to to end the war as fast as possible against a fanatical dictator.

tom said...

As a side note, my recently passed on neighbor, Christopher, was in the ETO from Market Garden to long after the war, last posting Trieste (same outfit as the TV pundit and author Col. David Hackworth, interesting stories abut that man, Christopher called him one of the most efficient and orderly soldiers ever known to him).

He said his worst experiences were FIGHTING the Jugend Bund der Deutschen Arbeiterjugend, AKA Hitler Youth, as he didn't particularly like having to shoot 9 -15 year old kids up close and personal but he said they were some of the most fanatical of the troops he fought. The older Wermacht were hardened soldiers resigned to a fighting retreat to Berlin and then a surrender. The Youth were heavily indoctrinated and least likely to surrender and most likely to pretend to surrender and then try to kill you. This is his personal anecdotal experience as related to me. Take that how you will.

Wars are ugly. People forget how ugly. That's why we will always have wars.