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David French & the Obama Hiroshima Drama

[ 357 ] May 28, 2016 |

Anyone familiar with David French (the NR scribbler, not the playwright) will be non-surprised to learn that President Obama’s speech at Hiroshima upset him a great deal.

Apparently French thinks Obama should have reminded the people of Japan that during WWII they were a nation of blood-thirsty maniacs who were at least as bad as the Nazis. The president should have tossed in a comparison or three to Islamic extremists. And he ought to have concluded by telling them to feel grateful that the U.S. had seen fit to give it not one, but two lovely nukes.

Time saving tip – Don’t read the article if you’re hoping for French’s opinion on whether the U.S. should have given Germany a nuke, or why a Dresden-style bombing wasn’t good enough for Hiroshima and Nagasaki. French starts off by equating Japan with Germany and then veers into “And those people were coo-coo, ya know.”

Japan’s rank-and-file military fought with a ferocity matched on the European Theater of Operations only by Hitler’s most dedicated fanatics. Japan’s troops fought to the last man, and when its military plight grew increasingly desperate, it launched a suicide-bombing campaign that dwarfs anything ISIS or al-Qaeda have ever imagined, much less attempted.

The nerve! Didn’t they know that the Right Wing Rules of Warfare only allow fighting to the last man and dying to defend one’s country when it is done by Americans?

Even many Japanese civilians demonstrated that they’d rather die than surrender — throwing themselves off cliffs to escape American forces.

How rude! Clearly a nuke or two was needed to teach these people how to behave when approached by enemy soldiers.

In those circumstances, if there was an opportunity to defeat Japan without causing such immense loss — a loss that would have unpredictable consequences for our own people, much less for Japan — should we not seize it? In deciding to drop the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Harry Truman made perhaps the most critical — and wisest decision — of any American commander-in-chief in our history. He saved lives. He ended the great calamity of World War II. And, ironically enough, he even saved Japan — leaving behind enough of a country and enough of a people to allow them to rebuild and re-imagine themselves as the great nation they are today.

But did they ever send a thank you note? Maybe a couple of crates of Pocky? Of course not, because they’re still rude. Shame on President Barack Wimpy Bowing to Foreigners Obama for encouraging them.

Here is the true message of Hiroshima: So long as America remains a great nation, it will rise to defeat great evil, and it will do so with its full power and deepest conviction. That message has been indispensable to keeping our nation — and the world — out of another global conflict for more than 70 years.

Er, yeah. Hooray for the localwar movement?

Certainly the fact that the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. spent most of that period waving increasingly more deadly penis extensions at one another had nothing to do with anything. It’s all down to U.S. Resolve and manly fondling of a glistening ICBM right out in public. Americans who forget that message are in danger of passing up an opportunity to frag non-Americans to hell and gone. Oh, la honte!

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  • Murc

    Hiroshima and Nagasaki are some of the last great American war crimes that still come in for broad societal defense.

    That needs to change.

    • Crusty

      Here comes some of that societal defense. The bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, completely isolated, were not nearly as bad as the toothpaste out of the tube effect they had the nuclear world to come.

      As a war crime, well, yes, they targeted civilians, which typically is a war crime, whereas army on army killing is not a war crime, but in an age when your army is made up of civilian draftees, i.e., ordinary citizens doing compulsory military service, the military is civilians, so if the conventional wisdom that a conventional invasion of Japan would have cost the lives of a large number of American soldiers, if the President wants to see our soldiers as “our boys,” i.e., civilians, I think that’s reasonable enough and from there, his decision of our civilians or theirs becomes pretty easy.

      The problem is that the civilian-soldier distinction that pervades the law of warfare and is relevant to determine when something is a war crime vs. part of the game, is that the soldiers are and the civilians are all just people.

      And so, in conclusion, I think it is defensible to accept that Hiroshima and Nagasaki were horrible on their own, horrible for what they brought about (a world living with the threat of destroying itself) but not necessarily something that warrant an apology or classification as a war crime.

      • Hogan

        So your argument is that the civilian/military distinction doesn’t apply to conscript armies?

        • The Geneva Conventions were, of course, all written and signed during the era of mass-conscript armies.

          • Crusty

            Yes, but the idea that “rules of warfare” might still leave a lot of room for lots of awful stuff and that they might be rife with arbitrary distinctions that don’t make a whole lot of sense but are better than nothing shouldn’t be that surprising. They’re just rules written by people as part of an effort to make us less horrible, not perfect principles divined from universally accepted truths.

            If we were to take as a starting point don’t covet your neighbor’s stuff, and thou shalt not kill, we wouldn’t get to a concept of “rules of war.”

            • Marek

              We also don’t get there if we erase the distinction between armed combatants and civilians.

              • Crusty

                The distinction between combatants and civilians is one that is only made after we get to, there shall be rules of war.

                Self-righteousness is not a substitute for thinking.

                • Owlbear1

                  There is also training of some sort, presentation of a weapon, ammunition.

                  If nothing else, conscripts get a ritual.

        • Crusty

          I don’t know, I’m not really smart enough to figure that out, but it doesn’t seem right that you’re a regular joe, and enjoy the protections of a civilian under the rules of war, a foreign power attacks or threatens to attack your country, politicians conscript you into service and then all of a sudden, you’re fair game.

          At the risk of sounding hokey, the problem is war itself and the fact that man hasn’t figure out to live without it and can’t tame our basest instincts. That’s why I think Obama’s call for a “moral revolution” sans apology makes sense.

          • efgoldman

            At the risk of sounding hokey, the problem is war itself and the fact that man hasn’t figure out to live without it and can’t tame our basest instincts.

            You’re making nice theoretical arguments vs the actual history of the largest, nastiest war ever fought. Good for you. Truman didn’t deal with those theories in 1945, nor should he have. The only question, after 70 years, is did he make the correct decision tactically.

            • efgoldman

              There’s no reason to second-guess Truman’s decision. Nor is there a reason to apologize for it.

              As I said above:

              You’re making nice theoretical arguments vs the actual history of the largest, nastiest war ever fought. Good for you. Truman didn’t deal with those theories in 1945, nor should he have. The only question, after 70 years, is did he make the correct decision tactically.

        • cpinva

          “So your argument is that the civilian/military distinction doesn’t apply to conscript armies?”

          you are not, I assume, aware of the fact that the “civilian” population of Japan was, even as the battle for Okinawa was being fought, training to defend the home islands? thus, for purposes of separating “civilians” from “soldiers”, it didn’t apply to the Japan of ww2 (much as it didn’t apply to the Nazi Germany of ww2, who were sending children to the front lines), the allied invasion of Japan fully expected to be met by the entire population of the country, carrying whatever could be used as a weapon. it was estimated, by the planners of said invasion, that the first units on the ground would suffer an 80% casualty rate, a good bit of it the result of said civilians.

          now i’ll grant you, the US, had it been invaded, would have seen the same thing happen: pretty much everyone capable of bearing arms would have been expected to fight the invaders. the difference being that Japan attacked the US first, with not even a formal declaration of war preceding it, something most of the force that attacked Pearl Harbor were not aware of, and expressed shame for later on.

          oh, and if, earlier in the war, the US had put together a working nuclear bomb, I can almost guarantee it would have been dropped on Germany first. fortunately for Germany, those working bombs weren’t finished until after it had surrendered, while Japan refused to.

          • Derelict

            Pretty much this. Present-day Americans (and people around the world in general) don’t remember what led up to the dropping of those bombs. The invasions of Iwo Jima, Saipan, and Okinawa saw American forces taking tremendous casualties; suicide tactics including Kamikazes in the skies and Kaitens in the seas were appalling to all observers; civilians trapped on the islands suffered barbarities at the hands of Japanese soldiers in the form of being used as human shields, or being forced to fight at gun- or knife-point, or being convinced/compelled to commit suicide by leaping into the sea. Contemporaneous Japanese propaganda made it very clear that every Japanese person, no matter their age or condition, would fight to the death on Japanese home soil.

            Thus projections of half a million US casualties in the first month of the war seemed pretty realistic, and estimates of Japanese casualties ran into the millions. The destructive effects of the atomic bombs on urban targets was unknown, and the long-term effects of radiation were barely even guessed at. Truman acted in the best interests of the US based on US casualty projections. And, ironically, he may also have acted in the best interests of the Japanese people in that killing 250,000 civilians in two atomic raids saved the lives of millions of other Japanese.

            • The Dark God of Time

              There were also thousands of Allied civilians and military prisoners of the Japanese scattered throughout the areas they conquered. That included my mother’s family. It may not be an exaggeration to say that I am alive precisely because of the dropping of the two bombs.

              • Derelict

                Right outside Nagasaki was the Mifuni POW camp, filled the American POWs (mostly submariners and sailors).

                • The Dark God of Time

                  Yes, one of grand-uncles was held there at the time the bomb was dropped.

                  Your point is?

                • Derelict

                  Not trying to make any point in particular. I just recalled reading Richard O’Kane’s recollection of being in Mifuni when the bomb dropped. He wrote that the guards’ attitudes toward the prisoners became noticeably less harsh once they’d seen that kind of power.

                • The Dark God of Time

                  When the Camp Commendant announced the Japanese surrender to the assembled now-former prisoners, he said to them: “We had our day. Now, this is your day.”

            • Jonny Scrum-half

              Maybe so; this certainly was a difficult decision to have to make.
              But my problem with the bombing is the timing. It’s my understanding that there was no reason not to wait until at least September before using the bomb, and during that time we could have seen whether the Soviet entry into the war produced peace without need for an invasion.
              No reason, that is, unless we (a) didn’t want to allow the Soviets to share in the victory, and (b) were sending a message to the Soviets that our war-making capability was such that we would have the upper hand in the coming peace. Those reasons seems way too plausible for me to think anything other than that they played a big role in the timing of the bombing.

              • Derelict

                From the American side, it was clear that the Japanese military in the Emperor’s cabinet would never accept unconditional surrender. They had made that clear even through the peace feelers they tried to send through the Soviets. Waiting would only give the Japanese more time to arm and train the civilian populace.

                From the Japanese side, the Emperor was convinced by the military that unconditional surrender meant he would have to step down. Some extremists even argued that America meant to exterminate the Japanese people. Waiting longer would only have continued the internal political strife while leading to ever-mounting casualties for both military and civilians.

                In the end, the bombs convinced Hirohito that continued resistance would result in the extermination of the Japanese people through starvation and bombing, ultimately followed by invasion.

              • Morat

                It’s my understanding that there was no reason not to wait until at least September before using the bomb, and during that time we could have seen whether the Soviet entry into the war produced peace without need for an invasion.

                The monthly death toll from the war in Asia in 1945 was 250-400,000. And given that the Japanese had confiscated 25% of the Korean rice crop in a futile attempt to ship it back to Japan, that number is likely to be a lot closer to the top of the range.

                Moreover, ~10% of the 4 million Japanese civilians captured by the Soviets died. The USSR was pretty close to launching an invasion of Hokkaido, where another ~4 million Japanese people lived.

                • Jonny Scrum-half

                  Those figures don’t seem right to me. I just looked up an estimate of Japanese civilian deaths in WW2, and the total was estimated at 550-800k. If that’s accurate, I don’t see how half that amount or more could be attributed to the Soviets “capturing” civilians.
                  Regarding the monthly death toll, again I don’t see how those make sense based on the total number of casualties suffered by Japan. Moreover, I’m assuming that any deaths attributed to theft of rice from Korea probably didn’t stop just because the war ended.

                • Morat

                  I said “war deaths in Asia” not “Japanese war deaths in Asia”. I’m counting the Chinese, Koreans, Vietnamese, etc.

                  As for the other number, I fucked up. The percentage is right, the total number is lower.

                  The rice was still in Korea, as the annihilation of the Japanese merchant marine made it impossible to ship to Japan. Allied troops arrived in Korea within a few weeks of Japanese surrender. No surrender of course also means that the Soviets would’ve taken the rest of Korea.

      • Murc

        but in an age when your army is made up of civilian draftees, i.e., ordinary citizens doing compulsory military service, the military is civilians, so if the conventional wisdom that a conventional invasion of Japan would have cost the lives of a large number of American soldiers, if the President wants to see our soldiers as “our boys,” i.e., civilians, I think that’s reasonable enough and from there, his decision of our civilians or theirs becomes pretty easy.

        This is both incoherent and not how it works. An army of draftees do not magically become “civilians.”

        • Crusty

          Well, it seems to work the other way, one minute you’re just a regular joe, trying to live your life, and then the decisions of politicians that you may or may not have voted for turn you into a soldier and hence, fair game.

          • Hogan

            It’s not “the next minute.” You get training and equipment, including weapons, that non-conscripted civilians don’t generally have access to; and you get a whole lot of other people around you with the same training and equipment. That’s what makes it a meaningful distinction.

            • Crusty

              You get those things all under threat of imprisonment by your government. That’s what makes it a meaningful distinction to the other side, but I’m not sure if its particularly meaningful to the conscriptee who cannot say “but I don’t want all these weapons and training.”

              • Hogan

                In a discussion of how wars should be fought, “they just shouldn’t” is a valid position, but kind of a conversational dead end.

            • JR in WV

              This is so wrong; I was enlisted into the US Navy in 1970, during a war, with many draftees.

              You are literally a civilian, metaphorically at gunpoint, one instant. Then you swear an oath, again, under duress, and then, in less than 30 seconds, you ARE a soldier. Then later comes boot camp, indoctrination, training to be the kind of soldier or sailor THEY decided you would be.

              I did enlist in the Navy, because I had in hand the “Greetings” document which required under threat of going to jail that I present myself for induction into either the US Army or the Marines, specifically to fight in the SE Asia war mostly in South Viet-Nam.

              I figured the odds of dying in a swamp versus having a Naval warship shot out from under me, and made the decision that seemed rational to me at that time. I was 19, and my draft lottery number (the first year that quaint custom was executer) was a two digit number. It was 46 years ago and I’m not sure but I think the actual number I got was 78, which got me drafted in March, nearly immediately.

              I’m kind of a pacifist, I don’t believe in war for so-called “geo-political ends” like the was in Viet-Nam, where we were killing people for politics. WW II was not like that, we were fighting for our lives, the lives of everyone in the world, really. And I do believe in self-defense.

              So I think dropping those two atomic bombs on Japan, who as a nation was swearing to fight to the last woman or child with a sharp stick killing our troops, was completely justified. And in a world where Americans are outnumbered by 23 to 1, I’m not so sure we should eliminate nuclear devices from our arsenal.

          • Lurker

            I am a citizen of a country where we have an almost-universal male conscription. I did, like most of my compatriots, my time in tge Finnish Defence Forces. Simce then, I have been in the reserve, placed in an actual unit that would be mobilised in a crisis.

            I may get a letter that turns me a soldier, even more, an officer, at any time. It might not even be a letter, it might be am SMS or a phone call. (In fact, considering the current security situation in the Baltic, this is not even a theoretical consideration.) Moreover, I drill regularly, as part of my continuing conscription-obligation. So, when I get a mobilisation order, it will come as a shock, but I am not just an “ordinary joe” suddenly turned into soldier. I am a trained citizen-soldier, taking up arms at the call of my country.

            However, in the international humanitarian law, I am very definitely a civilian until I get that letter and report to service. The Geneva conventions were written in the time when the above-described arrangememt was the international norm. The fact that civilians may be drafted, and that they might even be trained soldiers, does not make them combatants unless they are called to service.

      • Linnaeus

        whereas army on army killing is not a war crime, but in an age when your army is made up of civilian draftees, i.e., ordinary citizens doing compulsory military service, the military is civilians, so if the conventional wisdom that a conventional invasion of Japan would have cost the lives of a large number of American soldiers, if the President wants to see our soldiers as “our boys,” i.e., civilians, I think that’s reasonable enough and from there, his decision of our civilians or theirs becomes pretty easy.

        That’s not how US planners looked at it. They knew they were targeting civilians during the bombing campaign of Japan and said that they were.

        What blurred the line is that world had entered an age of industrialized, total war. So, from a strategic standpoint, it becomes easier to view civilians as legitimate targets because they do things like work in factories that produce equipment and supplies for a nation’s war effort.

        • Crusty

          Agreed and I don’t think I’m disagreeing, but I also think our leaders weighed the cost of an invasion of Japan to our soldiers, with the thinking that they were our guys not to be thrown away cheaply, regardless of the fact that they were uniformed soldiers, they were still our guys. Different thinking prevailed in different situations, as the strategy at Normandy was essentially that there’d be a first wave, and the Germans might kill them all, but then there’d be a wave after that.

          • Regulust

            The problem with the atomic bombing debate is that it’s usually framed as “nuke japan or sacrifice lots of American soldiers” when that was not necessarily the case. Some U.S. leaders didn’t actually think a bloody invasion was necessary, most notably Eisenhower. Even though Japanese propaganda called for a last-man defense, the actual willingness of the government to pursue that course for very long was questionable.

            I’m ambivalent as to the war crimes thing because WW2 was just a long string of war crimes anyway. I think the nuking was probably a mistake though.

            • Crusty

              You’re correct that that’s not necessarily the case, but if that is how Truman came to understand the choice, than the decision itself shouldn’t be faulted. The decision making process, sure. If on the other hand, Truman simply wanted to show the Soviets who’d be boss once this whole WWII thing wound down, that’s a different story.

            • LosGatosCA

              because WW2 was just a long string of war crimes

              Agreed. We’re just talking about degree and more importantly motivation. the Axis powers initiated a lot of nasty criminal shit because that’s what they decided to be. The Allies retaliated with what they had because the stakes were so high and the Germans and Japanese just would not acknowledge any international or humane norms in any way.

          • cpinva

            as well, a part of that thought process involved Japanese casualties, that would be less overall, if dropping those bombs on two cities could get them to surrender, vs the bloodbath of an invasion.

            it was the Japanese military that refused to surrender, even after the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, that led to the second one being dropped on Nagasaki. incidentally, both cities were chosen (Nagasaki as an alternate target) because they had factories and other facilities that supported the military, but being operated by “civilians”. when a civilian opts to work in a place that supports the military, they become a legitimate target for the enemy, and specifically targeting them for destruction is in no sense a war crime.

            • Crusty

              Did Japanese civilians “opt” to work in places that supported the military?

            • Linnaeus

              as well, a part of that thought process involved Japanese casualties, that would be less overall, if dropping those bombs on two cities could get them to surrender, vs the bloodbath of an invasion.

              Eh, not really. Stimson claimed this after the war, but there’s little indication that US planners gave much consideration to the issue of Japanese civilian casualties. That’s made apparent in the fact that the US had destroyed about 60 Japanese cities prior to using the atomic bomb and used incendiary bombs in massive quantities (the US actually used so many that it ran out of them).

              • Derelict

                Indeed. It’s worth noting that the firebombing of Tokyo killed more civilians in a single night (estimates run between 120,000 and 140,000) than the bombing of Nagasaki did.

                And all of that came about because the B-29 turned out to be a terrible high-altitude precision bomber. After Curtis LeMay took over, he switched from high-altitude daylight attacks to low-altitude area attacks with incendiaries. The “reasoning” was that much of Japan’s industry consisted of small home-based shops turning out rifles, pistols, bullets, etc. The reality was that LeMay’s planners recognized that the construction of Japanese cities was almost entirely wood for the structures and paper-like materials for walls–and producing firestorms that consumed wide areas would be easy. Test “cities” were constructed in the US in order to evaluate this theory before LeMay put it into practice.

          • Linnaeus

            Sure, any war leader is going to look to minimize costs to personnel and materials to the greatest achievable extent. The point I’m making, and this could be a case of six of one and a half dozen of the other, is that the attitude that war planners came to have wasn’t that every civilian was a putative soldier, but simply that it was acceptable to bomb civilian targets.

      • DrDick

        The folks at the Hague would like a word with you.

        • Crusty

          Ah, Dr. Dick’s special brand of wit and wisdom, now featuring no wit and no wisdom, just trite snark.

          • Marek

            Seriously, they would like a word with you.

            • Crusty

              I realize that there are certain rules of war. If questioning whether some of them make sense means the Hague needs to have a word with me, so be it.

              I’m sure it is of great comfort to a conscripted soldier to know that his death is not a war crime, but rather an accepted cost of war under the Geneva conventions.

              If you don’t see that there is an ethical dilemna between fighting a war by Marquis of Queensbury rules and winning it, then I feel bad for you, but there isn’t a whole lot to discuss.

              • Malaclypse

                fighting a war by Marquis of Queensbury rules

                This is what they call a “tell.”

                • mikeSchilling

                  Yeah, what kind of homophobe are you?

              • Marek

                If you don’t see that there is an ethical dilemna between fighting a war by Marquis of Queensbury rules and winning it,

                Kill ’em all, God will know his own?

                there isn’t a whole lot to discuss.

                Agreed!

          • DrDick

            Yes, we all realize that you are a war crimes apologist. I bet you defend Kissinger, as well.

      • Brett

        Where’s the whole “they targeted civilians” thing coming from with Hiroshima and Nagasaki? They were both full of legitimate military targets*, and bombing in the World War 2 era was highly inaccurate and not yet known to be as ineffective as it turned out to be – not helped by the Japanese distributing war production throughout their cities.

        * Hiroshima was the headquarters of the 2nd JIA commanding the defense of southern Japan. Nagasaki was a major military port.

        • Murc

          Where’s the whole “they targeted civilians” thing coming from with Hiroshima and Nagasaki?

          Er. They targeted the city as a whole.

          If nuking a whole city doesn’t count as a war crime and the intentional targeting of civilians, I’m not sure what does.

          • Brett

            There’s a difference between deliberately targeting a city to cause maximum civilian casualties, and targeting legitimate military targets (military bases, personnel, production) that causes civilian death as collateral damage.

            • Murc

              There is if you’re trying to hit a military base and accidentally lob a bomb somewhere nearby by mistake.

              Nukes aren’t what you’d call precision weapons. And even that notwithstanding, neither Little Boy nor Fat Man were aimed at military targets; they were both aimed at the cities. As in, deliberately targeted to catch as much of both cities in their area of predicted effect as possible.

              • Brett

                And even that notwithstanding, neither Little Boy nor Fat Man were aimed at military targets; they were both aimed at the cities.

                Little Boy was aimed at Aioi Bridge, although wind blew it off course. Fat Man was aimed between a major arms works and the Nagasaki Arsenal. Both were acceptable military targets.

                • Brad Nailer

                  Of course they were acceptable targets. But please: Using a nuke to destroy a bridge or a factory? Maybe those were the “targets,” i.e., what the bombardier was aiming for to get the maximum blast effect, but we were sending a message, pure and simple.

            • Linnaeus

              Civilian casualties were part of the plan, though, and not seen as only an unfortunate side effect of using the bomb. US planners thought it important that the bomb’s use not be seen by the Japanese populace as just another military strike.

        • Derelict

          They were cities, not fortresses or military bases, and thus contained lots of civilians.

          It’s notable that both cities were excluded from the regular target list explicitly for the purpose of being A-bomb targets.

          • Brett

            That doesn’t change the fact that they had a bunch of legitimate military targets within them. Lots of bases have cities nearby.

            • Derelict

              Oh, I wasn’t really challenging you–just noting that there were lots of civilians.

              And it’s not like we had all that much compunction about killing Japanese civilians. The firebombing campaign killed hundreds of thousands–perhaps more than 1 million.

              • Brad Nailer

                The Pearl Harbor attack justified in the minds of a lot of Americans any atrocity we might wage against Japanese civilians. A lot of people today feel the same way about Muslims.

                • The Dark God of Time

                  And some were familiar with the sacking of Nanjing through newsreel footage of it as well.

          • Lurker

            Indeed. The point was to explode the atomic bomb in a place where its effects would be very visible and easy to analyze.

            This meant that the human toll was enormous. However, it had one benefit. The destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki probably gave an exaggerated picture of the effects of a 20 kt bomb. Had the weapon been used, for example, on high seas against naval formations or against an island fortress, the effects would have been much less spectacular. Even the use of an atomic bomb in a city built using concrete and masonry would have caused much less damage.

            The use of the atomic bomb as happened gave us a very good warning about the terrible power of nuclear weapons. Most likely, this warning has since then prevented a reuse of a nuclear weapon. Those who died in Hiroshima and Nagasaki may have saved millions of lives.

            It does not make it right, but it is a beneficial side effect of a war crime.

        • koolhand21

          Try to remember that the US targeted the civilian population of EVERY Japanese city with studied effects. Dropping high explosives followed closely by incendiary bombs followed by more HE to create a firestorm (see also Hamburg et alii) was quite intentional.
          Robert McNamara, in “The Fog of War” had no doubt that if the Japanese won the war, the Allied Bomber aCommand would be tried as war criminals for their tactical methods.
          The nuclear bomb was magnitudes of difference but no less monstrous.

    • Manny Kant

      Of course, the firebombings of Dresden, Tokyo, etc., were also war crimes, so I’m not sure why Shake thinks doing that to Hiroshima and Nagasaki would have somehow been morally superior. (Especially since that almost certainly would not have precluded the need for an invasion)

  • Eisenhower, most notably, did not think it was necessary to use the atomic bomb on Japan.

    • Murc

      Eisenhower is the last Republican President who I look at and go “Y’know, I’d probably have voted for the other guy, but I’d have had no hard feelings after the election and would probably have slept easy at night knowing the country was in responsible hands.”

    • jim, some guy in iowa

      was Eisenhower on the record to that effect *prior* to the bombing?

      • Linnaeus

        Eisenhower claimed in his memoirs that he had met with Henry Stimson in 1945 prior to the bombings and voiced opposition to using the atomic bomb on the basis that Japan was defeated and using it was no longer necessary.

        • Brett

          I wonder what he defined as “defeated”. There’s no indication that the Japanese were ready to surrender to the US short of a bloody invasion of the home islands – they sent out feelers to the Soviets, who didn’t pass it on, and then eventually stopped altogether.

          • Linnaeus

            I don’t recall what, if anything, he said regarding what he considered defeat to be. US military leaders were confident of victory over Japan no later than 1944. By 1945 Japan had no navy to speak of, it was wide open to US aerial bombardment, and its military production was severely crippled. If I were to guess, I suspect it was these circumstances that Eisenhower had in mind.

            • Davis

              Defeat meant “unconditional surrender”.

      • Marek

        You think that is some sort of argument winner? You think that the commander of Allied Forces in Europe would have opined ahead of time on the record about this? That’s nuts.

        • jim, some guy in iowa

          well, apparently he *did*. and you need to go find someone else to talk with if you want to fuck around with “argument winning”- that isn’t my thing

    • ThrottleJockey

      Was island hopping to Tokyo a fair expenditure of American lives? I mean by this would it have been worth expending the live of an additional 5,000, 10,000, 50,000, or 100,000 service members?

      • Regulust

        There was really no need to island hop at all. Eisenhower, among others, thought the Japanese were already seeking a way to surrender with a minimum loss of face. Faced with conventional bombing runs & a sea blockade, it would not have taken much longer.

        • Brett

          A conditional surrender probably would have meant no accountability for the Japanese leadership that started the war, no demilitarization, and allowing them to keep their conquests in China proper.

          Faced with conventional bombing runs & a sea blockade, it would not have taken much longer.

          If you consider a sizeable fraction of the Japanese civilian population starving to death in 1946 acceptable by comparison. I know that the US leadership probably didn’t care about that except insofar that it might destabilize the Japanese government from whom they wanted a surrender, but it’s something worth considering when weighing the costs and benefits after the fact.

          • Manny Kant

            I have a hard time seeing why conventional bombing runs are morally superior to the atomic bomb drops. A comparable number of civilians were killed in the fire bombing of Tokyo to Hiroshima, although over a longer period of time.

        • BubbaDave

          As mentioned upthread, conventional bombing runs were not necessarily a humane alternative. The bombing of Tokyo, Dresden…. The fact that we now view nukes as a class of weapons in themselves doesn’t change the fact that at the time we used it as a bigger conventional bomb.

        • efgoldman

          Eisenhower, among others, thought the Japanese were already seeking a way to surrender with a minimum loss of face.

          Neither Ike nor anyone else in the West knew, or could have known, what was going on in the Japanese war councils. Military commanders made certain assumptions, based on past behavior and the best analysis they had, which wasn’t necessarily accurate.
          The most common analysis at the time is that the Japanese would never surrender to a direct invasion. Right or wrong? I don’t know.

          • Manny Kant

            Worth noting that Eisenhower, you know, hadn’t fought in the Pacific theatre at all.

      • Depends on whether you think an invasion of the Japanese home islands was actually required.

        They had no navy left at that point and our submarine warfare had left them essentially cut off.

        Their air defenses were pretty much nil. We were stripping guns off B-29s at that point to let them carry more bombs.

        They had almost no industry left at that point. We had to search pretty hard to find targets actually worth using an atomic weapon on.

        Meanwhile the Red Army was sweeping the Japanese forces out of Manchuria like they weren’t even there.

        It’s possible that the Soviet declaration of war had at least as much to do with Japanese surrender as the atomic bombs.

        • ThrottleJockey

          From what I gather Truman looked at Japan’s intransigence and a genuine Silver Bullet and decided to go with the Silver Bullet.

          By the time of the Trinity test, the Allied powers had already defeated Germany in Europe. Japan, however, vowed to fight to the bitter end in the Pacific, despite clear indications (as early as 1944) that they had little chance of winning. In fact, between mid-April 1945…and mid-July, Japanese forces inflicted Allied casualties totaling nearly half those suffered in three full years of war in the Pacific, proving that Japan had become even more deadly when faced with defeat. In late July, Japan’s militarist government rejected the Allied demand for surrender put forth in the Potsdam Declaration, which threatened the Japanese with “prompt and utter destruction” if they refused.

          General Douglas MacArthur and other top military commanders favored continuing the conventional bombing of Japan already in effect and following up with a massive invasion, codenamed “Operation Downfall.” They advised Truman that such an invasion would result in U.S. casualties of up to 1 million. In order to avoid such a high casualty rate, Truman decided–over the moral reservations of Secretary of War Henry Stimson, General Dwight Eisenhower and a number of the Manhattan Project scientists–to use the atomic bomb in the hopes of bringing the war to a quick end.

          • Robin G.

            That’s my take as well. And context cannot be forgotten: it was a long and horrible war, only a few decades on the heels of another long and horrible war. They wanted it over with. Given the option of ending everything in a matter of days rather than months, and with what would arguably be less loss of life to both sides… they made a call. We can show genuine sorrow that it came to that without necessarily believing it was the indefensibly wrong choice.

            Also 20/20 hindsight, unknown unknowns, etc, etc. There’s a solid argument to be made that the damage done to the world during the following 70 years outweighed the damage of invasion, but it’s not easy to know the future. (And, conveniently, blaming the rest of the 20th century on those bombs also gets everyone who came after off the hook for their own terrible decisions.)

            • Crusty

              This was before we reached today’s conventional wisdom that wars should never end.

            • efgoldman

              There’s a solid argument to be made that the damage done to the world during the following 70 years outweighed the damage of invasion, but it’s not easy to know the future

              Except that no nuclear device has ever been used in war again.

              • Manny Kant

                I think it is reasonable to suspect that the existence of nuclear weapons was a major reason that the United States and the Soviet Union did not go to war with each other.

              • bender

                That is a major point that is usually overlooked. People don’t understand a new thing until they see it happen. The example of Hiroshima and Nagasaki has been a deterrent against the further use of nuclear weapons.

                When the Korean War started, didn’t the Soviet Union possess atomic weapons? And yet when the war went poorly, Truman was being pressured by the political right and some of his generals to invade China or use nukes. If the American public had not had a realistic idea of what nuclear weapons do, they would probably have thought of them as just being a more powerful form of conventional weapons, and resisting the pressure to use them would have been much more difficult.

            • sapient

              I would remind everyone of a link that I think I discovered here: https://vimeo.com/128373915

              it’s a graphical representation of the fallen in WWII, and it ends with a comparison with other wars.

              I will never second-guess the people who had to contend with that, and won the fight against really evil regimes. I’m glad that Obama went to Japan to remember. It’s important that we continue to veer away from that kind of colossal human tragedy.

            • mikeSchilling

              And the first long and bloody war had ended without a decisive military victory, leading to the dolchstoss myth. The Allies weren’t going to make that mistake again.

          • Brett

            I bet “1 million” would have ended up on the low side as well. The Japanese were preparing for an all-out defense against an amphibious invasion of southern Kyushu (the location for the proposed Operation Olympic) that alone was estimated to cost up to 500,000 US casualties. God knows how much invading Honshu proper would have cost.

            And of course, let’s not forget the Japanese (although this probably didn’t factor into the decision-making of the US at the time). Several million casualties from Operation Olympic, and if the war continues into 1946 you’ve got potentially tens of millions of Japanese civilians starving to death from famine.

            • Marek

              This is going to hurt me more than it hurts you!

        • Brett

          I’m not sure how that latter follows. The Japanese were in no position to break a blockade of their home islands, and the Soviets had little amphibious capabilities when it came to contributing to an invasion.

        • Derelict

          Meanwhile the Red Army was sweeping the Japanese forces out of Manchuria like they weren’t even there.

          Not really. The Soviets didn’t declare war on the Japanese until August 9, and didn’t actually do much of anything during the two weeks before the war ended.

          It’s possible that the Soviet declaration of war had at least as much to do with Japanese surrender as the atomic bombs.

          According to the Japanese, the entry of the Soviets was a factor, but not nearly as much as the atomic bombs. The Emperor listened to what his scientific advisors told him about atomic weapons, heard the reports from both cities about the level of destruction, and concluded that continuing the war would lead to the extermination of the Japanese people. He overruled the military in the cabinet and sued for peace.

          • Brett

            That’s the thing to remember about it. IIRC the Japanese leadership didn’t believe the atomic bomb was a serious threat, and thought that at best the US had one of them. They were figuring on forcing the US to try out a bloody amphibious invasion that would then bring the US to the table for a favorable peace.

            The US having multiple atomic bombs changed that. Now the US could wipe out Japan without requiring either the massive invasion, or an incredible expenditure of conventional bombing that was already hitting limits on its effectiveness.

          • The Soviets attacked Manchuria on August 9th with 89 divisions (1.5 million men) against Japanese forces numbering 700,000.

            I’d hardly call that “not doing much”.

            • petesh

              I agree, and one theory is that since Germany was being split into what eventually became two states for a long time, the USSR would certainly have demanded a joint occupation of Japan. I still think that averting a Soviet invasion was a significant factor. (Mind you, I could not convince the examiners in 1970, but it’s OK, I fooled them on Economics.)

    • Eisenhower, most notably, did not think it was necessary to use the atomic bomb on Japan.

      And he was far from alone among top American military brass in that judgment. MacArthur, Admiral Leahy, Admiral Nimitz, Admiral Halsey, Hap Arnold…heck, Curtis freaking LeMay said it “had nothing to do with the end of the war.”

      • Manny Kant

        Curtis LeMay is certainly not an authority to be trusted.

    • cpinva

      “Eisenhower, most notably, did not think it was necessary to use the atomic bomb on Japan.”

      which is meaningless, since his province was solely the European theatre. this is just a guess, but i’ll bet some of his buddies, who commanded (and, in some cases, landed with) troops in the Pacific, probably told him to shut the fuck up, he had no clue what he was yapping about.

      • Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, Commander in Chief of the Pacific Fleet stated in a public address given at the Washington Monument on October 5, 1945:

        The Japanese had, in fact, already sued for peace before the atomic age was announced to the world with the destruction of Hiroshima and before the Russian entry into the war. (See p. 329, Chapter 26) . . . [Nimitz also stated: “The atomic bomb played no decisive part, from a purely military standpoint, in the defeat of Japan. . . .”]

        Admiral William F. Halsey, Jr., Commander U.S. Third Fleet, stated publicly in 1946:

        The first atomic bomb was an unnecessary experiment. . . . It was a mistake to ever drop it. . . . [the scientists] had this toy and they wanted to try it out, so they dropped it. . . . It killed a lot of Japs, but the Japs had put out a lot of peace feelers through Russia long before. (See p. 331, Chapter 26)

        On the 40th Anniversary of the bombing former President Richard M. Nixon reported that:

        [General Douglas] MacArthur once spoke to me very eloquently about it, pacing the floor of his apartment in the Waldorf. He thought it a tragedy that the Bomb was ever exploded. MacArthur believed that the same restrictions ought to apply to atomic weapons as to conventional weapons, that the military objective should always be limited damage to noncombatants. . . . MacArthur, you see, was a soldier. He believed in using force only against military targets, and that is why the nuclear thing turned him off. . . . (See p. 352, Chapter 28)

        Link

        What’s interesting here is, why do people think that the military commanders in the Pacific must have supported the bombings? Obviously, not based on a review of the available evidence about what they thought, so from somewhere else. The propaganda has become so ubiquitous that it was not only necessary, but everyone at the time knew it was necessary, and the doubt is something novel and recent.

        Even the modern-day doubters often accept the claim that it shortened the war, and debate over whether that is good enough.

        • Derelict

          Even those commanders were speaking after the event. Conditions inside Japan had deteriorated beyond anyone’s estimation. Most Westerners who entered Japan within days of the surrender were shocked by what they encountered. Not the destruction caused by the bombing campaign, but the reduction of living standards to pre-industrial.

          • Speaking after the event, sure, but speaking about their position at the time.

            • LosGatosCA

              I’m pretty sure no one has ever revised their position after the fact to distance themselves from a decision that they subsequently realized had broader ramifications.

              I mean if all these military leaders were actively opposing dropping the bombs then who was Truman relying on?

              Isolating the decision to Truman just seems a little too convenient for everyone else who after the fact were managing their professional responsibility/public image.

              I’m sure many thought, we’re OK with firebombing Tokyo using conventional weapons because we want to win in a way everyone has accepted as necessary but mass incineration in a single event of similar targets makes me uncomfortable or even question the degree of war criminality I’m willing to accept.

        • Derelict

          Even those commanders were speaking after the event. Conditions inside Japan had deteriorated beyond anyone’s estimation. Most Westerners who entered Japan within days of the surrender were shocked by what they encountered. Not the destruction caused by the bombing campaign, but the reduction of living standards to pre-industrial. The food shortages were far more critical than American or British intelligence realized.

        • cleter

          One thing to bear in mind is that these Allied military commanders who later expressed regret about Hiroshima/Nagasaki were not necessarily against using nukes per se. Once atomic bombs were developed, they were incorporated into the invasion plans. Marshall was strongly in favor of using tactical nuclear weapons. Had MacArthur’s invasion plan taken place, at least half a dozen atomic bombs would have been used as tactical weapons in the opening salvo of the invasion.

    • efgoldman

      Eisenhower, most notably, did not think it was necessary to use the atomic bomb on Japan.

      He was also half a world away.

  • ThrottleJockey

    The problem with Obama going to Hiroshima was this: People might twist his gesture into an apology . There’s no reason to second-guess Truman’s decision. Nor is there a reason to apologize for it. This was not the Turkish Genocide of Armenians. It was our attempt to conclude a war that Japan started. It was an entirely legitimate decision.

    • Murc

      Nor is there a reason to apologize for it.

      … yes, there bloody well is! We nuked a couple cities. That’s a war crime.

      It was our attempt to conclude a war that Japan started.

      I see. So if you’re not the aggressor in a war, anything goes?

      • Hogan

        Some people are just evil and need to be put down. You know, like teacher unions.

        • ThrottleJockey

          I certainly don’t think teacher unions are evil or should be put down.

      • Crusty

        No, but if you’re the President of a country in a war, you have a duty to a) win it, b) end it, and c) weigh heavily the lives of the drafted soldiers fighting it involuntarily.

        • Malaclypse

          Interestingly, you left out the duty to not commit war crimes while doing a-c.

          • Moondog

            Should we apologize to the Germans as well?

      • ThrottleJockey

        Pretty much, yeah… I’m not suggesting that we discard the Geneva conventions butt I think dropping the bomb was legitimate way to conclude the war quickly. I wasn’t raised to throw the first punch but I was raised to throw the last. As we say in the hood don’t start nothing you can’t finish.

        • Murc

          There is a difference between “throwing the last punch” and “the guy is already on the ground, and you pour some gasoline on him and set him on fire.”

          • ThrottleJockey

            It’s been a minute since I’ve reviewed the history and maybe I’m mistaken but as I recall the estimate was that it would take a hundred thousand American casualties to take Tokyo. At that trade-off I think it’s a legitimate decision. If you’re telling me that it would only have taken say 5000 American casualties I could agree with you.

            • Brett

              More than that. Estimates varied, but it was from 150,000 to 500,000+ casualties just to take southern Kyushu in Operation Olympic. Taking Honshu (far more populated and defended) would have been much worse.

          • LosGatosCA

            That’s not an apt analogy. At all.

      • cpinva

        “… yes, there bloody well is! We nuked a couple cities. That’s a war crime.”

        bullshit. it’s become very clear to me you have no goddamn idea what the fuck you’re talking about. having grown up in the midst of many, many veterans of the war in the pacific, their consensus of opinion was that if we hadn’t dropped those bombs (on cities with military related industry in them), they would have probably died in the planned invasion of Japan, based on their personal experiences on places like Iwo Jima, Tarawa, etc., and the fanatical, fight to the death mentality of not only the Japanese soldiers, but any Japanese civilians as well.

        so, fuck you, and the dead horse you rode in on, you don’t know your ass from a hole in the ground, in this issue.

        • Murc

          Your argument would appear to boil down to “its okay to obliterate cities in a nuclear fireball in the course of normal warfighting.”

          That, to me, is simply nuts.

          I’m not sure why I’m obligated to respect a consensus opinion merely because it is a consensus opinion. And it wasn’t even a consensus opinion, as has been pointed out by many other people in this thread.

          • socraticsilence

            The best case counterfactual (no invasion, only a blockade) involves the intentional death by starvation of possibly 10s of millions of people. It’s not like there was some super humane choice we could have made and we ignored it because Truman went “Screw the Japs”

        • sharculese

          So let’s murder children instead?

          • Brett

            How many Japanese children would have died in a mass amphibious invasion of the Japanese home islands, or from mass starvation after the rice crop failure in 1945 if the war went into 1946?

        • Brett

          I echo some of this sentiment as well. It would have been my great-uncle and grandfather who would have been churned up in Operation Downfall had it gone forward.

          • jim, some guy in iowa

            I stopped by my neighbor’s one day in the early fall of 1995. His uncle, who farmed with him, was knocking off work early to go to his 50th high school reunion. I said, “that must have been something, to be 18 then. What did you think about the bomb?” And this guy, who has always been a good neighbor and a real gent, said “We were *glad* they did it”. And if you’re the US government under the circumstances, who do you put first?

            I think a lot of this looks a lot dirtier to us seventy years on than it would if we were on the ground at that time knowing what they thought they did

            • nixnutz

              I think a lot of this looks a lot dirtier to us seventy years on than it would if we were on the ground at that time knowing what they thought they did

              Sure, and you could say the same thing about the holocaust. Germans were a lot less critical of it at the time. The difference is you don’t see a lot of Germans today saying that the only possible criticism of it was that it was tactically unwise. Some of the people killed in the camps were genuine enemies of the Reich, why trouble yourself about a little collateral damage?

              • jim, some guy in iowa

                I agree there’s a lot of criticisms to be made, and have at it. I’m pretty sure that within a generation or so the dropping of the bomb *will* be widely considered a war crime

                I also believe that a lot of the people who are so absolutely convinced today that they wouldn’t have okayed the use of the a-bomb *would* have, if you could put them in the position to make that decision without all our hindsight

              • Manny Kant

                Oh, wow. Do you really want to go there?

              • Brien Jackson

                This is the most offensively stupid thing I’ve read in a long, long time.

              • socraticsilence

                Yes if only we had ensured the death by starvation of tens of millions of civilians then truly we would be humanitarians.

                The sad thing is we might be, constructed famines tend to disappear into the mists of history in a way that military actions don’t – – look at India during the war for instance.

      • Brett

        Bombing military targets within cities is not a war crime, and not by the standards of the time when bombs were highly inaccurate. Or do you think that’s wrong, and that the conventional bombing in World War 2 was a war crime as well?

        • Murc

          Or do you think that’s wrong, and that the conventional bombing in World War 2 was a war crime as well?

          Dresden and Hamburg were absolutely war crimes, as admitted by no less than Curtis LeMay himself.

        • LFC

          @Brett
          IMO much of the ‘conventional’ bombing in WW2, by both sides, was a war crime by the customary law-of-war standards of the time. Not all of the bombing, but a fairly substantial portion of it. E.g. the German blitz on London and attack on Rotterdam, the Allied fire-bombing of Japanese and German cities (Tokyo, Dresden, Hamburg etc), night raids supposedly aiming at military targets but incapable of hitting them given the existing technology, etc.

          Not an expert on the history of the bombing, but I think a look at it will support this, though not all experts will agree of course. See e.g. the history of Br. Bomber Command and the role of Arthur Harris, who btw was not honored after the war in the way other British generals were.

        • Bombing military targets within cities is not a war crime, and not by the standards of the time when bombs were highly inaccurate.

          The relevant concept in international law here is proportionality.

          Rule 14. Proportionality in Attack
          Rule 14. Launching an attack which may be expected to cause incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians, damage to civilian objects, or a combination thereof, which would be excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated, is prohibited.

          Check the source of the link. That’s right – international law, the Geneva Conventions, the ICRC, all recognize that it can be perfectly legal to knowingly launch a strike that will kill some innocent people if it is expected to achieve a big enough military objective. Is it ok to blow up a house knowing there is parent with a child in it in order to get rid of some enemy soldiers? Under international law, the answer to this question would be probably yes if there was an infantry company in the house, but probably no if there was only a squad. Then again, if it was a really well-situated house so that an infantry squad was able to hold up an entire tank column, that would shift the answer back to yes.

          Also, notice that the standard against which to measure is not the actual concrete and direct military advantage, but rather, “the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated.”

          And we think of international law regarding the protection of civilians as all warm and fuzzy.

      • Manny Kant

        The entire allied strategic bombing campaign in both Europe and Japan was a war crime.

    • Bidding on this soggy pile of auto-contrarianism starts at three garden slugs.

      • Thirtyish

        What did garden slugs ever do to you?

        • They’re easier to capture & store than the steenkin’ groundhogs.

    • trollhattan

      The “problem” is no problem because there was no apology. Your “people” such as they exist will be the usual wingnuts who twist everything Obama ever says into the inverse. Never waste energy on what the wingnuts think

      The gold standard here is Korea: does Korea believe Obama apologized? They do not.

      • Anna in PDX

        Which Korea?

        • cpinva

          both.

      • Ask Me Gently

        For the wingnuts, Obama just setting foot on Japanese soil constitutes an apology.

        (Drat! Read your first sentence and began typing…)

        • Crusty

          Perhaps he should puke in someone’s lap.

        • Colin Day

          What if Obama had sailed in on the USS Missouri?

          • The Dark God of Time

            That would be a cool episode of Dr Who.

      • ThrottleJockey

        Both sides will have a interest in twisting Obama’s gesture into an apology. The Wingnuts of course will do it because they want to depict Obama as weak and obsequious. Some segments of the Japanese population will do it because they feel they deserve an apology and will grasp at what they want to be one. Some segments of the American left will also think we should apologize and will similarly twist Obama’s gesture into an apology. “Framing” is practiced by all sides my friend. That’s how revisionism works.

        • Hogan

          And they do that when Obama gets out of bed in the morning. At some point you just have to let haters hate.

        • ColBatGuano

          And even if all three of those things happen, it still doesn’t mean he shouldn’t have done it.

      • rachelmap

        I can only imagine the uproar there would have been here (I live in Seoul) if Obama had apologized.

    • People might twist his gesture into an apology

      So like any other day then.

      Unfortunately, Japan was governed by people with the moral character of David French, therefore the A-Bomb may have been necessary although I could be wrong: not about the David French type sociopathy but about the necessity of dropping the bomb.

  • Linnaeus

    In deciding to drop the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Harry Truman made perhaps the most critical — and wisest decision — of any American commander-in-chief in our history.

    There was no “decision to use” the atomic bomb. It was made with the understanding that it would be used. The real “decision” was where to use it.

    • Linnaeus

      Missed the editing window, so let me ETA that there are historians,e.g, Alperovitz, who do think that Truman made a substantive “decision to use” the atomic bomb. I’m less convinced of this.

      • jim, some guy in iowa

        the thing had taken on a life of its own before it was used. It had sucked up a lot of resources and also, people were already positioning for what became the Cold War and wanted us to demonstrate to Stalin that he had to be scared of us

    • Murc

      There was no “decision to use” the atomic bomb. It was made with the understanding that it would be used.

      … that doesn’t seem right. Truman was the President. He gave the order. He was equally capable of looking at the Manhattan Project and not ordering the weapons it created be used.

      Unless you’re saying the Army would have staged some sort of coup and dropped it anyway?

      • Linnaeus

        No, I’m not saying that the Army would have staged a coup or anything like that. It’s more like there was a prevailing climate of opinion cultivated from the very start that the atomic bomb would be used. The primary sources themselves tend to show a preoccupation with questions such as how to secure unconditional surrender. In that light, it’s more about how to use the bomb than whether to use it.

        This view isn’t universal by any means, but it’s the one I’ve found more convincing.

        • Crusty

          Agreed. The idea being that the bomb would be a weapon so terrible that it could be used 1) to win wars and 2) subsequently deter aggression, but its only effective as a deterrent if people believe that it exists, works, can be used, and will be destructive and you get people to believe this by using it.

          • bender

            It appears to me that every one of those points turned out to be correct.

        • cpinva

          ANY weapon developed, superior to those already in use, would have been used, in the effort to defeat both Germany & Japan. that’s the whole point of continuing weapons development, while actively engaged in armed conflict. development on a semi-automatic weapon for the infantry didn’t stop, just because it wasn’t in use before the war started. the Pershing tank didn’t have production stopped, because it was still in the planning stages, when war was declared on us. that doesn’t also mean, by definition, that if a weapon developed during the conflict comes of age after the conflict ends, is going to be used anyway, on someone, just because it has to be used, to justify itself.

          Christ, what an idiot idea.

          • Linnaeus

            I’m not really seeing where we’re disagreeing here.

          • Marek

            Right! That’s why we nuked Hanoi.

            • Crusty

              There seem to be a lot of things that you don’t understand. That Hanoi was not nuked does not demonstrate that it was not inevitable that nukes, if developed, would not necessarily be used. They were already used. Their destructive power was no longer secret.

              • Pseudonym

                That Hanoi was not nuked does not demonstrate that it was not inevitable that nukes, if developed, would not necessarily be used.

                Or not.

                Can anyone parse this sentence?

              • Manny Kant

                The H-Bomb has never been used.

            • Truman didn’t use the atomic bomb in Korea because he was afraid that if it didn’t stop the war it would lose any value as a deterrent.

            • socraticsilence

              There’s a pretty big difference in terms of stakes for the US in WW2 and Vietnam.

              • Marek

                Maybe, but that’s not the argument I was replying to.

                Does your argument assume that the Domino Theory was bullshit?

        • Murc

          It’s more like there was a prevailing climate of opinion cultivated from the very start that the atomic bomb would be used. The primary sources themselves tend to show a preoccupation with questions such as how to secure unconditional surrender. In that light, it’s more about how to use the bomb than whether to use it.

          All of this is true, but those are contributory factors to what decisions get made. They don’t result in some sort of immaculate decision, where a course of action is decided upon and implemented but nobody involved actually did anything.

          • Linnaeus

            They don’t result in some sort of immaculate decision, where a course of action is decided upon and implemented but nobody involved actually did anything.

            That’s not the argument. The idea is that there wasn’t a single “decisive moment” after vigorous debate in which Truman made the decision to use the bomb, as the situation is often framed (which, incidentially, is sometimes done to demonize Truman as a murderer as well as proclaim him to be a hero).

            Again, this is still debated among historians, so I’m not saying it’s definitive.

          • efgoldman

            They don’t result in some sort of immaculate decision

            No tactical decision, made in the context of a continuing world war in which 60 million people, soldiers and civilians, were killed, is “immaculate.”

            • Murc

              I meant immaculate in the sense that it appears without anyone taking the normal steps you’d usually associate with a decision being made, in the sense of “immaculate conception.” Not in the sense of “clean” or “pure.”

            • ColBatGuano

              Yeah, I find it hard to believe any President, given the choice of dropping the bombs versus invading the Japanese homeland would have gone with invasion. Especially after the casualties on Okinawa.

  • Snarki, child of Loki

    Anyone know how to say “WOLVERINES!!!1!” in Japanese?

    Asking for a friend.

    • ThrottleJockey

      +10 for 80s throwback humor.

    • heckblazer

      I believe it’s “Waabarinzu!!!ichi!”

    • Jhoosier

      Ooorubarinzu!!ichi!

      ETA:
      1) I shoulda hit refresh, but glad to see someone else made the ichi joke.
      2) English teacher in Japan here. Oh god, make the katakana-english stop!

  • LosGatosCA

    I have been torn for most of my life on the ethics of using nuclear weapons against Japan.

    But the facts are that more people died and just as horribly in Dresden and the Tokyo firebombings (including LeMay admitting the latter were war crimes).

    “The Operation Meetinghouse firebombing of Tokyo on the night of 9 March 1945 was the single deadliest air raid of World War II,[2] greater than Dresden,[25] Hiroshima, or Nagasaki as single events.[26][27]”

    Plus even if fewer direct casualties would have been incurred on the Japanese side with an invasion, the casualties on the US side would not have been trivial. Lastly, it accelerated the end of the war, certainly by months if an invasion had been required. Those extra months would have caused additional deaths that were avoided. Years ago I read an account of a Japanese concentration camp victim -British iirc – who said he could not have held on for two weeks longer than he did. He was grateful that the war ended sooner so that he barely survived. Obviously, there were many people beyond just a Japanese invasion force that benefitted from an earlier end.

    Most of WWII and even the conflicts in the 1930’s had a level of war crimes obviously never seen before. Dropping the nuclear bombs were more horrific for the implications going forward than for the actual events themselves. Dresden and Tokyo had the same types of human misery leading to horrible pain before death and exposure to horrible images/personal observations of horrific deaths every bit as traumatic as Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The difference was that moving into the future there would be no huge mobilization of extraordinary forces to effect that type of horror. A single plane with a single bomb at the decision of a single person could now inflict the same level of human misery.

    So, I reluctantly accept that Truman did the right thing. And I’m grateful that the world is conflicted about it so it hasn’t happened again.

    • LosGatosCA

      I should also add that I see the defining characteristic of the era from 1914 – 1950 as a constant, if not continuous, time of crimes against humanity.

      WWI, the purges in the Soviet Union, genocide by Germany, Japanese invasion of China, WWII, etc.

      The carnage in war, in political disputes, the scale of inhumanity and the persistence of it for decades is just unfathomable.

      In this context, nuclear weapons were useful in putting it to an abrupt end and locking the forces that would continue the carnage at that scale into a strategic stalemate that was the Cold War.

      A bad end to a worse period.

      • cpinva

        you forgot to include the attempted genocide of the Armenians by the Ottoman Turks, a not insubstantial event.

        • LosGatosCA

          Honestly, I wasn’t even attempting to be comprehensive since it’s a very long, very depressing list which is a threat to my mental health.

          On this weekend I think of my uncles, father, and father-in-law who fought in WWII. Pretty varied experiences: South Pacific paratrooper, 2x veteran of Gualcanal marine, Navy medic who served domestically and then helped build Thule in 1946/47, motorcycle MP in Britain through to Germany. The global scope of service just within 4 people is daunting.

          It’s even more amazing when you consider how economically depressed and isolationist the US was as late as 1938/9.

      • Matt McIrvin

        I always think of Matt White’s page cataloguing them:

        http://users.erols.com/mwhite28/atrox.htm

        It’d be interesting to see this chart updated and continued into the early 21st. It feels like there’s been an uptick in atrocities since the 1990s, but that may be an artifact of presentism, US perspective and media coverage.

    • Marek

      Does it help if you accept that the firebombing of Dresden was also a war crime? h/t Billy Mitchell

      • Marek

        I actually meant Curtis LeMay.

        • And here I was thinking you meant Billy Pilgrim.

          So it goes.

          • GeoX

            Billy Mitchell is the guy with the Pacman high score. He seems like kind of a douchebag; I wouldn’t take his opinions too seriously.

            • Linnaeus

              Heh, I also thought of that Billy Mitchell when I read Marek’s comment. He doesn’t come off well in either Chasing Ghosts or The King of Kong.

          • Ronan

            ‘It had to be done,’ Rumfoord told Billy, speaking of the destruction of Dresden.
            ‘I know,’ said Billy.
            ‘That’s war.’
            ‘I know. I’m not complaining.’
            ‘It must have been hell on the ground.’
            ‘It was,’ said Billy Pilgrim.
            Pity the men who had to do it.’
            “I do.’
            ‘You must have had mixed feelings, there on the ground.’
            “It was all right.,’ said Billy. ‘Everything is all right, and everybody has to do exactly
            what he does. -I learned that on Tralfamadore.’

    • DrDick

      But the facts are that more people died and just as horribly in Dresden and the Tokyo firebombings (including LeMay admitting the latter were war crimes).

      Yes, those were also war crimes. The whole purpose of dropping the atomic bombs was to terrify the Japanese into surrender, just like 9/11. The difference is that only the losers get prosecuted.

      • LosGatosCA

        You are absolutely correct.

        And I don’t think admitting all these activities were crimes against humanity / war crimes ‘helps’ or excuses the massive amounts of death and destruction that occurred.

        What does ‘help’ is to understand that the Axis powers posed a truly existential threat, they were committing crimes against humanity on a scale that was not even understood at the time. In response, the Allies did what they could, using the tools they had available, with rationales that were in some case too facile.

        To me the whole tapestry of the era, from 1914-1950, needs to be considered in discussing the severity of a given action/war crime. LeMay certainly understood what he was doing, he said it out loud. But it was a terrible means to a good end (stop the war) while other crimes like the genocide in Germany or the comfort women by Japan were evil for their sakes or for the sake of doing worse crimes.

        No one should be proud of Dresden for example, or the nuclear attacks. On balance, those collective decisions did lead to ending other crimes and saved lives though.

        It’s healthy to see that the pattern can’t be excused, certainly should not be repeated, and that flawed people made flawed decisions that ultimately led to the end of the war followed by unparalleled security on a global scale that prevented a repeat.

        • What does ‘help’ is to understand that the Axis powers posed a truly existential threat

          To the United States?

          I’m often confused by the term “existential threat” which usually just seems to mean “excuse for doing something awful”.

          This doesn’t make Germany and Japan not awful, murderous states. They were. And Germany certainly was a straight up existential threat to many people, including its own citizens. But, I’m still struggling with how Japan, at the point when we dropped the bombs, were a truly existential threat. I mean, we could have beat them conventionally, right? The analyses usually are in how much cheaper in lives the atom bomb generated victory was, not that we wouldn’t have won but for the atomic bombs.

          • mikeSchilling

            Germany certainly was a straight up existential threat to many people, including its own citizens.

            As was Japan. Ask the Koreans, Chinese, residents of the Philippines, etc.

            • Matt McIrvin

              Japan actually was working on an atomic bomb as well, though the project wasn’t that far along.

            • The Dark God of Time

              And the Philippines was American territory at the time, so Japan wasn’t a threat to the continental U.S.A., it certainly had seized and possessed American territory by then.

          • Matt McIrvin

            The existential-threat justification works better as a reason to start developing the bombs in the first place, when the US had reason to believe that the Germans had an active nuke project. Then, of course, once the project is underway and on a path to success, and the war’s not over yet, justifications shift.

          • LosGatosCA

            Existential threat: a threat to a people’s existence or survival

            I personally extend that to a group’s capability for self-determination.

            Nazi Germany was an existential threat obviously for the victims of the Holocaust, to Poland, to Russia, to France, Great Britain, etc. Likewise the Japanese to China, Korea, the US.

            If the Allies had not defeated Nazi Germany and the US not been committed to the Manhattan project it’s very likely that Von Braun ICBM’s with nuclear warheads could have been trained on the US from Pennemunde by the early 1950’s. Certainly Von Braun proved capable and the US scientific community was concerned about nuclear weapons as early as 1939.

            So yes, Nazi Germany and allies posed an intermediate term existential threat to the US and allies. Plus, the world now understood that half measures after WWI did nothing to change the trend line on global war. Consequently more drastic, severe measures would be required to subjugate the enemy and then reconstruct their political frameworks.

          • mikeSchilling

            I’m often confused by the term “existential threat”

            For instance when John-Paul Sartre said to Albert Camus “Give me back my beret or I’ll shove this baguette up your ass.”

    • Manny Kant

      It is very difficult for me to believe that fewer Japanese people would have died in an invasion.

      • LosGatosCA

        your logic in comparing alternatives is flawed.

        If the US had decided to firebomb Hirishima and Nagasaki instead of drop the bomb, very likely, and Japan continued to resist, also very likely, the Russians invade and the US invades then the death toll for all sides is substantially higher and the difference for the two cities is negligible in terms of casualties but hundreds of thousands of other people die.

        That’s not even considering other operations outside of Japan that ceased more quickly.

  • Mike in DC

    Y’know, when Japan rewrites their history books to accurately describe and report what happened at Nanking, Bataan, etc, and releases several films confronting that truth head on, then I will have fewer issues discussing the concept of war crimes against Japan.

    • Hogan

      I care more about what we are than I do about what they are.

      • Mike in DC

        I care about putting things into context. We have already tacitly acknowledged that indiscriminate bombing of population centers is morally unacceptable. We don’t do that anymore. Yes, we blow up wedding parties etc, but we don’t carpet bomb cities anymore.
        Japanese textbooks whitewash their own history and their popular culture rarely addresses it in a critical way. Their leaders apologize, and then turn around and lay a wreath at the graves of war criminals.

        • Linnaeus

          Yes, we blow up wedding parties etc, but we don’t carpet bomb cities anymore.

          We also haven’t fought a war on the same scale of World War II since that war ended. If that were to happen again (and I very much hope it does not), I think there’d be fewer objections to carpet bombing cities.

          • Anna in PDX

            We already have presidential candidates on record saying things like turn the Middle East into a sheet of glass.

            • LosGatosCA

              And Republicans didn’t make him their nominee – they really don’t have any consistent ideology do they?

              • cpinva

                if I’m not mistaken (and I may be), Trump has expressed similar feelings, just maybe not in those exact terms. so yeah, the Republicans are going to make him their nominee.

              • Anna in PDX

                That’s a good point. Thanks for marginally cheering me up!

        • Captain Oblivious

          We’ve got plenty of our own stuff to apologize for, which we haven’t, and which many Americans, including leading politicians, have even defended:

          (a) enslaving millions of black Africans and their descendants

          (b) mass genocide of Native Americans, and their continued oppression and ill-treatment

          (c) atroticites committed by both sides in the Civil War, but especially the South

          (d) support for uncountable regimes that torture and enslave their own citizens

          • LosGatosCA

            Japanese-American internment.

            • Matt McIrvin

              There actually have been apologies and reparations for that. Indeed, one of the arguments for reparations for slavery is that this is a precedent.

              • Matt McIrvin

                Apologies and reparations enacted by Ronald Reagan, no less.

        • Brett

          We stopped carpet-bombing cities because

          1. We learned from World War 2 that it was much less effective than expected in stopping war-time production, and

          2. Bombs got a lot more accurate down the line. Strategic bombing was wildly inaccurate by modern standards, and in the case of Japan it was made even harder because the Japanese distributed production through their cities.

          • Matt McIrvin

            Some of it was specifically intended as “morale bombing,” though, explicitly targeted at civilians with the intention of breaking the enemy’s will. My impression is that that turned out to be less effective than expected as well, or actively counterproductive, though the concept of a strategic deterrent is sort of the ghost of it.

            • Hogan

              It didn’t work when the Germans tried it on the British, so I’m not sure why we expected it to work on the Germans and Japanese.

        • Julia Grey

          Japanese textbooks whitewash their own history and their popular culture rarely addresses it in a critical way. Their leaders apologize, and then turn around and lay a wreath at the graves of war criminals.

          Kinda like some of our textbooks do with the Civil War, how our culture really doesn’t address the issue of what secession MEANT, and the way so many honors are accorded to the treasonous generals, etc.

      • Marek

        Harrumph.

      • DrDick

        Exactly!

    • LosGatosCA

      Or what they did with the ‘comfort women’

      As a society Japan is very unsympathetic in these areas. Even Abe’s perceived behavior toward the survivors at this late date is despicable.

      Germany has confronted their issues much more comprehensively than Japan.

      • cpinva

        “As a society Japan is very unsympathetic in these areas. Even Abe’s perceived behavior toward the survivors at this late date is despicable.”

        in (some) fairness to ourselves, most of that list has been recognized as being wrong, and apologized for, even though it took a hundred years to do so. in the case of native americans, 4 centuries. so, perhaps it will take that long for the Japanese to come around, and publicly and privately admit to these acts as having been wrong then and wrong now. maybe.

      • Marek

        ermany has confronted their issues much more comprehensively than Japan.

        Hell, Germany has confronted their issues much more comprehensively than the United States. But that doesn’t mean it was right to incinerate civilians for no substantial military objective.

        • mpowell

          The military objective was to end the war. It seemed to have worked. There are good reasons the Geneva Conventions forbid this kind of thing, but I don’t regard them as absolute standards of morality but rules to establish international standards.

  • Jenny Jenny, who can I turn to?

    U libs luv Hitler!!

    • trollhattan

      I see you’ve studied this deeply.

      • wjts

        Oh, k has studied many things very deeply. He is quite possibly the dumbest troll we’ve ever had.

        • cpinva

          that isn’t a particularly low bar to stumble over.

        • Davis

          I thought it was parody.

  • Why Japan and not Germany?

    The Russians were doing the heavy lifting of going to Berlin and ending the war in Europe. If Truman had been looking at a solo American advance to the dead-enders in Berlin, is there really any question but that he would have used nuclear weapons in Germany?

    • LosGatosCA

      Not in my mind.

      FDR approved the Manhattan project on December 6, 1941 Research started earlier in reaction to suspected German progress on developing a nuclear weapon.

      That was the day the weapon was committed to be used. Lucky for the folks in Europe the Russians ended the war with Germany before the weapons became available.

      One consideration would have been Stalin’s reaction if Truman had proposed using them in Germany – that might have prevented it

    • cpinva

      nope, he’d have done it in a heartbeat, were the bombs ready for use.

      • Marek

        But it still would have been a decision he took.

  • You give me something I can hold on to

    U libs love commies AND Nazis!

    • Mike in DC

      This grammar Nazi demands spellcheck.

      • N__B

        Grammar Nazi? We should drop a dictionary on Japan!

        • Hogan

          But not an unabridged dictionary. That would be a war crime.

          • Snarki, child of Loki

            Godzilla vs Thesaurus!

            I’d watch that.

          • Unabridged too far.

    • wjts

      The bad guys will never give up their nuclear weapons if we give up hours they will walk all over us.

      Why, we’d be a union territory of India within a week!

    • LosGatosCA

      Of course, as a national defense strategy, unilateral disarmament doesn’t make much sense.

      And the relationship between national security and how an individual plans for their own safety makes exactly the same amount of sense as whether a country should ever use Keynesian macroeconomics since individual households need to balance their checkbooks.

    • cpinva

      “U libs love commies AND Nazis!”

      OMG, you’ve found us out! oh what are we to do?! wait, I know: have some pancakes jenny.

      • LosGatosCA

        Doughy Pantload is coming out with his sequel:

        Liberal Commie Fascists

        With several more after that in a masterwork series to rival the other compelling fantasy series ‘A Song of Fire and Ice’

        • Snarki, child of Loki

          ‘A Whine of Derp and Flatulence’, by Doughy Pantload.

          • LosGatosCA

            The HBO adaptation will introduce ‘4D Smellarama’

  • I know you think I’m like the others before

    Who saw your name and number on the Obama soldiers wraaagh!!

  • I got it! I got it!

    Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor???

    • wjts

      very fuuny try to change what i said to make me look like an idiot.

      k, you always look like an idiot.

      • Thirtyish

        I’m actually not sure this is k. This is probably Jennie trying very haard to emulate k.

        • wjts

          Possibly, but I think it’s the real thing. If he starts talking about how we should have a secret branch of the armed forces with nukes that can talk about anything except nukes we’ll know for certain.

          • trollhattan

            Uraniphilia?

    • Hogan

      if didn’t nuke hitler

      Just wanted to save this bit from the coming slaughter.

      • Anna in PDX

        Darn, missed this by ten seconds.

      • wjts

        It’s nice to see that k hasn’t lost his form in his absence.

    • Anna in PDX

      “Nuke Hitler?” “Forget it, he’s rolling.”

    • trollhattan

      Also, too, without droppink bomb we never got atomic energy TOO CHEAP TO METER.

      • Thirtyish

        And flying fish! Don’t forget those.

  • Thirtyish

    I know have Tommy Tutone running on a loop in my head, for what it’s worth.

  • For a good time, for a good time caaaaallll

    all that i am saying is that sometimes violence hitler. we stopped hitler with nuclear weapons

    • Thirtyish

      Give nukes a chance.

    • Anna in PDX

      V-E Day: May 8, 1945.
      Hiroshima bombing: August 6, 1945.

      Just for the record.

      • N__B

        Time is a flat circle.

        Or possibly a cube.

      • sapient

        I’m sure we’re all straight on the fact that V. E. meant victory over the Nazis (Europe). Wouldn’t want anyone to think we were dropping bombs after the war was over.

        • Anna in PDX

          You’re right, I should have added V-J day just to be clear. I am still confused about K mentioning Hitler and nukes in the same comments repeatedly. Is he really that ignorant or is he doing this for some reason I cannot fathom? Trolling is such a wacky phenomenon.

          • sapient

            Ignorance, probably, and unfortunately. I’m kind of amazed at how youngsters have little interest in WWII. I guess it’s to be expected, but ouch. It was formative for me, with my dad (and all) having fought.

            That’s why I shill the Fallen video (again https://vimeo.com/128373915). I knew all this, but am still really moved by the unbelievable toll.

            • sapient

              And, just to add a bit: I’m a younger “baby boomer’ – and I’ve heard lots of disparaging comments recently about my generation. I get it because some of us are so in love with our own biographies, and so cognizant of the generation gap that we experienced with our parents. But we’re not carrying their legacy, which was really heroic, over and over again. No, they weren’t perfect. I’m not willing to call them war criminals. No.

              • JL

                Nobody is calling the entire generation war criminals. I reject the idea that because there was a just war and heroism, people can’t call out specific acts as war crimes.

            • Anna in PDX

              Heck I knew the numbers but found the video incredibly moving. Thanks for bringing it up again. I think one of the things it does is to explain how much worse wwii was for Russia than any other party.

              • sapient

                Thanks so much for watching it.

              • Poland lost 17% of its pre-war population. One out of every six Poles alive in 1939 died in the war.

                • LosGatosCA

                  Only 20,000 Jews remain out of a pre-war population of around 3M in Poland.

  • DrDick

    My father saw those Japanese civilians jumping off the cliffs on Saipan* and it scarred him for life. He never once said it was because they were crazy or fanatics. He always knew it was because they were terrified of the Americans and believed that was the lesser evil. David French can go fuck himself with a rusty chainsaw.

    * He was also one of the men that sealed the caves where the Japanese had fortified positions. That also gave him nightmares for the rest of his life.

    • Anna in PDX

      Yikes! But, it’s amazing that you heard that first hand account. As a person born in the late sixties I have such trouble understanding the perspective of people who survived wwii. I never met a wwii vet who would talk about such things. I wish that Studs Terkel had written an oral history about soldiers.

      Eta: I wrote this before I saw the part about the caves, I am so very sorry that anyone would be ordered to do such a thing. There are no words.

      • petesh

        My father walked up Italy in WWII, and never, ever talked about it. Nor did his friends who were captured in Singapore and worked on the real Bridge on the River Kwai. Nor did my uncle who hiked out of Burma, almost solo, barely ahead of the Japanese army, having stayed behind to burn the papers in the Governor’s office. They were all, to an extent, crippled permanently, mostly in the psyche.

        • efgoldman

          My father walked up Italy in WWII, and never, ever talked about it.

          I am middle-named after my Dad’s best friend growing up and through college, who was killed at the Anzio beachhead.

          • petesh

            Dad also loved Oh What a Lovely War, which was I think the only video he owned; he’d play it for visitors. That of course was the previous (aka Great) war, in which 28 of Harold Macmillan’s contemporaries at Balliol took part and all but 2 died.

        • DrDick

          My father rarely talked about his experiences and then mostly near the end of his life. He would still have nightmares about it in his 70s. War damages everyone it touches, no one comes away unwounded.

      • They were all, to an extent, crippled permanently, mostly in the psyche.

        I figure that my father would have taken up alcohol abuse and taciturnity even without the stimulus of the Pacific Theatre, for both are cultural traditions.

        • DrDick

          Mostly all I knew until my father was in his 70s was that he had been on Guam, Saipan, and Iwo Jima.

          • My father, having participated in atrocities against the (original) Sandinistas as a young horse Marine during the Second Nicaraguan Campaign, wanted after Pearl Harbor to re-use his killing skills on behalf of the Army (by then he was too old to rejoin the Marines) but was deemed by them to be more useful wielding a typewriter (and an adding machine, I guess) in Glendale, CA.

            He never had anything to say about WWII, and very little, very rarely, about the Marines (I remember just 3 horrifying anecdotes, and an amusing one or two—e.g., about playing baseball in a field of “sensitive grass” that would lay down obediently along the path of a ground ball—each told just once, and spaced out over 20 years or so). Maybe if he’d lived past 60 I’d have heard more, but I doubt it.

          • ColBatGuano

            and Iwo Jima

            I’m surprised anyone who fought on Iwo Jima could function later in life. Just pure distilled slaughter with almost no “behind the lines” that wasn’t in danger.

            • DrDick

              As he said much later in his life, he landed the first day and spent three days with his head down in a foxhole with a headless marine (you could still see the horror in his eyes in his seventies). Then his squad got orders to go down the beach to blow up a stranded landing craft (he was a demolition man in the Seabees). The next thing he remembers is three days later on a hospital ship headed to Hawaii. He also used to talk about knowing three of the guys who raise the first flag on Mount Suribachi.

    • They had been told that the Americans would do horrible things to them.

      • Indeed. By happy coincidence, last Wednesday I was in the audience for the annual public reading by members of the Brookline (MA) Senior Center memoir-writing class, which has been going (with the same leader) for 34 years, though I think no one taking it now has been doing so for more than 20 years (two of the residents of my Old Fogies’ Home, women aged 96 and 104, have—I think—been in it almost that long). One of the 16 readers, a Japanese woman (83), has only been in the class one year; her short memoir totally knocked me out (and there was plenty of strong competition).

        It was her account of life with her mother, younger sister, and 7 month old brother in the couple of months ending on August 15, 1945, which they’d spent together with about 50 other families who’d been sent out of Tokyo to take shelter in an inn (now a famous resort, then not so much) and therapeutic sulfur spring at the top of a not-too-far-away mountain. The penultimate scene showed all the refugees gathered in a common space to hear a screechy radio broadcast on the aforementioned date; she couldn’t make out the words, but her mother explained that it was the Emperor announcing that Japan had surrendered. We had previously learned that the Japanese people had been told that Japan was fighting the war against the Allied “ogres”; now we learned that, with surrender, they anticipated being quickly enslaved by US forces.

        In the final scene, her mother takes all the black-market potatoes (mostly green and shriveled) that she had been slowly accumulating against the coming winter (when the wild greens they had been picking in the woods would become unavailable) and boils them up to serve her children and everyone else.

        In the final lines, she repeated the first lines: “August 15. I call this Potato Day. Every year, on August 15, I feed my family potatoes.”

        • Anna in PDX

          Wow, just your summary had me tearing up.

      • sapient

        I was a baby US citizen in occupied Japan in the ’50’s. We didn’t do horrible things to them afterwards, We brought peace and prosperity. Not sure the same would have happened the other way around.

        That said, my parents loved the Japanese people, and learned as much as they could about Japanese culture. I’m a huge fan too, but recognize that there is a dark side of every culture.

        • Not sure the same would have happened the other way around.

          The grasshopper lies heavy.

          • sapient

            Yes, well novels and counterfactuals are interesting, but the culture that supported the Japanese and the German governments during WWII were unrelenting. Not sure there is evidence of an upside before the end of the war. That’s why I worry about Republicans now in the US. Not all of their voters are horrible to the core, but I’m pretty sure they are.

            • LosGatosCA

              No question about it. The typical Trump supporter would have made a perfect ‘Well, they make the trains run on time and those people have been stealing from us forever’ types of fascists. You can see it in how they are perfectly willing to persecute gays, Muslims, transgendered folks and have zero empathy for even black children being blatantly publicly executed, never mind the selective prosecution and differential sentencing for the poor and blacks.

              Sorry to say these people are large in number, morally misguided, and just plain mean, even if they aren’t physically aggressive, with a complete absence of empathy for any human being other than themselves.

              It’s the lack empathy that makes them dangerous. When people can acquiesce in the face of evil but don’t view themselves as culpable or having any moral obligation to object to behavior by others that are culpable then the evil can reach critical mass.

  • 867-5309

    867-5309!

  • sharculese

    I really should look into Organisation. If I’m listening to OMD it’s usually Architecture & Morality or Dazzle Ships.

  • sharculese

    This is what you do instead of having friends.

    • wjts

      If k had friends, he wouldn’t be able to amuse us with his penetrating insights. Tell us more about how Christians invented cities, k!

  • wjts

    who keeps hacking my posts to make me look like an idiot!

    Some meth-addled moron named k, so far as I can tell.

  • Hogan

    What’s the word for doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results? Oh yeah–K.

  • Maybe it’s just me, but I actually find the “bombing Hitler” comments funny.

    • wjts

      k’s stream-of-consciousness idiocy is legitimately delightful, as is Dagney’s hyper-Catholic homopanic. I quit feeding Jenny a while back, but can’t help myself when it comes to those two.

      • sharculese

        as is Dagney’s hyper-Catholic homopanic.

        it’s only 6 weeks until Bastille Day…

    • Anna in PDX

      They are. I was thinking that a moderator had played with them. It was hard to imagine that he’d bother to type them as is. Now I think I see where the moderator made the changes and he really typed that. Wow!

  • Just another one of those mysteries

    How come you guys can edit my posts but i can’t edit yours?

    • Because life is unfair.

    • The Dark God of Time

      Because you haven’t worked hard enough for the Revolution, Tovarich.

  • Here is a sample of the Troll’s oeuvre. Enjoy.

    very funny guys, keep changing every post you disagree with to make me look like an idiot. bad people will not defeat themselves we had to use the nuclear bomb to stop hitler and we need to shoot criminals in order to stop them. the US giving up our nuclear weapons will not make the communists and nazis give up they’res and law abiding citizens giving up they’re guns will do nothing to stop criminals.

  • N__B

    You know, I’m sitting here swapping hard drives on the office server (the pre-fail warnings got pretty goddamned insistent) and I was in a bad mood. A pratfall artiste was just what I needed to cheer me up.

  • CDWard
    • The Dark God of Time

      So was the sacking of Nanjing.

      http://www.history.com/topics/nanjing-massacre

      • Hogan

        We all got it coming.

      • GeoX

        What’s it they say about two wrongs…?

        • The Dark God of Time

          http://articles.latimes.com/1990-03-10/local/me-1948_1_japanese-internment-camps

          My mother, who was 8 at the time, smuggled food into the camp, crawling under barbed wire and letting it tear into her back rather than make a sound that would’ve betrayed her to the guards.

          Yeah, I’m less than forgiving toward the Japanese.

          Go figure.

          • GeoX

            This kind of atrocity dick-measuring contest is incredibly grotesque and doesn’t serve to justify anything.

            • The Dark God of Time

              Thanks for your perspective.

              • GeoX

                You’re like these right-wingers who point to some horrific crime and go “you against the death penalty NOW, are you, hur hur hur?” Yes, believe it or not, some of us have principles, and “you don’t indiscriminately slaughter civilians because their countries do bad things” has never been one I’ve found particularly difficult. But clearly, opinions vary.

                • The Dark God of Time
                • GeoX

                  Dude, NONE of us would be alive today if large events in the past–good and bad–had happened any differently. So? That doesn’t say anything about the morality of anything.

                • The Dark God of Time

                  Then keep your own moralizing about how people should feel the morality of the bombing to those who would benifit from it. Who appointed you my personal confessor on this subject, man?

                  As my mother used to say, everything has a price. Perhaps the Japanese had to pay too high a price in return for their conquests and rapaciousness in Eastern Asia by having the bombs dropped on them.

        • Brett

          Well, there’s also the JIA Unit 731 experiments. Although that one’s partially on us as well, because the US was so interested in the potential bioweapon data that they granted immunity to all of the researchers that ended up under their control.

        • The Dark God of Time

          Please, please! This is supposed to be a happy occasion!
          Let’s not bicker and argue about who killed who.

        • LosGatosCA

          Two wrongs?

          I’d say WWII put humanity well into triple digits.

          As I have said many times before, if the cycles of history are accelerating then the era from 1914 – 1950 was the modern equivalent of the Dark Ages. A period when wholesale slaughter of human beings was more the norm than the exception.

          • The Dark God of Time

            Really?

            The war(Taiping Rebellion)was the largest in China since the Qing conquest in 1644, and ranks as one of the bloodiest wars in human history, the bloodiest civil war, and the largest conflict of the nineteenth century with estimates of war dead ranging from 20 to 70 million dead, as well as millions more displaced.[4]

            • LosGatosCA

              Not seeing any conflict between your post and mine.

              • The Dark God of Time

                Lots of bloody wars in the 19th Century as well. Trying to wall off this or that period as particularly bloody is a mug’s game. Especially when you consider that the bubonic plague did much of the depopulating during the Dark Ages, not war.

                • LosGatosCA

                  Take a look at that Vimeo link: https://vimeo.com/128373915 supplied by sapient

                  Nothing in the 19th Century compares to WWII in sheer numbers. When you add in WWI the civil wars in Russia/China, Stalin ourges in the 20’s and 30’s the numbers for the 1914-1950 timeframe exceed the 19th century for any comparable 36 years.

                  You were on the right track with that China example but the Bubonic plague was not biological warfare.

                  Bloody wars true, but not every bloody war is horrific on a global scale.

                  So, you may seem put off by my post but I don’t see a conflict between the two.

                • The Dark God of Time

                  https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dungan_Revolt_(1862–77)

                  Muslim death in Shanxi alone may have been as high as 4,000,000 during the Tong Zhi Muslim Revolt (同治回乱)of 1862
                  Total deaths on all sides: 8,000,000-12,000,000, including civilians and soldiers, Others record: 20,770,000 death
                  The majority of civilian deaths on all sides were due to famine caused by disruption of farming and supply lines during the war and not due to massacres or deaths in battle.[citation needed]

                  https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panthay_Rebellion

                  1,000,000 including Muslim and non-Muslim civilians and soldiers

                  “some historians have estimated that the combination of natural disasters combined with the political insurrections may have cost on the order of 200 million Chinese lives between 1850–1865″[6] The figure is unlikely, as it is approximately half the estimated population of China in 1851.[7]

                  https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_rebellions_in_China

  • kped

    Damn, looks like I missed some high comedy!

    • sharculese

      Nah, just K.

  • K.

    i come here to debate and all you guys do insult me and hack my posts to make me look like an idiot. non-violence doesn’t do any good. you can claim the united states committed ‘war crimes’ but the fact is without those bombs we’d all be speaking german. likewise can talk about how terrible gun owners are but someday you will find yourself in a situation where your only options are kill or be killed when that happens you better hope you have your gun with you. Obama should be spending memorial day honoring the people who served our country not cowtowing with the people who were shooting them.

    • wjts

      i come here to debate and all you guys do insult me and hack my posts to make me look like an idiot. non-violence doesn’t do any good.

      I guess we can beat you up, if that’s what you really want. But you’d probably be better served by the personal ads in your local alt-weekly.

    • I don’t think K really comes here for the hunting.

    • DocAmazing

      cowtowing with the people who were shooting them

      He’s competing in a rodeo in Japan?

      • trollhattan

        Those cows ain’t towin’ themselves, pilgrim.

        They get beer and rubdowns after, though.

  • K.

    how would you have killed hitler. he wasn’t going to kill himself he had to be stopped. somethimes you need to kill people to get things done killing people is not a war crime if it’s against someone like hitler. it would be wrong for us to nuke canada for no reason but hitler was the type of person who had to be deal with.

    • The Dark God of Time

      I’d pay a Dutchman to set him on fire.

    • Ronan

      “he wasn’t going to kill himself ”

      well……

  • Hogan

    how would you have killed hitler. he wasn’t going to kill himself

    And now my day is complete.

    • wjts

      In one of the deleted comments, he also claimed that no Republican president would honor Nazi war dead. k might be putting us on.

      • Hogan

        I’m kinda leaning toward that theory, although I’ve never seen Easter eggs wrapped up in so much bullshit before.

      • jim, some guy in iowa

        somebody felt the need to lighten things up by bringing in a punching bag for everybody to work on, rather than each other. good idea, actually

  • First verse same as first

    Longer-winded trollbot whole lot worse.

  • The Hiroshima bomb would be considered a tactical nuke today.

    I carried 200 times the destructive power of that weapon on my B-52.

    [shudder]

    I think I need to start drinking now.

    • efgoldman

      I carried 200 times the destructive power of that weapon on my B-52.

      We went to the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum out near Dulles (a magnificent take, by the way) the other week when we were in DC. While it’s not the first thing you come to, the first thing that really caught my eye was the actual, real Enola Gay. My stomach did a little lurch.

      • LFC

        I’ve been through that museum too. A good while ago, but more recently than I’ve been in the main branch of the Air & Space Museum off the Mall. But the only time I’m in those particular museums are the rare occasions when out-of-town friends are visiting the area. Same impetus for a visit about a yr or so ago to the intelligence/espionage museum in Ft Meade.

      • Matt McIrvin

        I grew up very near there and my parents used to live there, so I visited a couple of times after it was built. Now, I’d like to take my daughter there (she loves the main Mall building), but since my parents have moved away, there’s not much reason to be there and brave the traffic other than that one museum. Maybe we’ll make it a road trip sometime when we’re in the area.

    • DrDick

      One of the guys my father worked with was the navigator for the back up plane for the Inola Gay. He was immensely grateful they flew the mission.

      • I met Paul Tibbets once. He was a very quiet guy. Didn’t say much.

  • cleter

    So, National Review thinks the wisest commander in chief in US history was Democrat Harry Truman. Interesting.

    • LosGatosCA

      Well , he was a Liberal Fascist after all.

  • Joe_JP

    I have no desire to read standard conservative anti-Obama whining & overall find the comments on this blog above interesting.

    But, this gives me a bit of pause:

    The nerve! Didn’t they know that the Right Wing Rules of Warfare only allow fighting to the last man and dying to defend one’s country when it is done by Americans?

    Is that the rule? It’s a stupid one — the Confederates, e.g., didn’t fight to the last man. That wasn’t the rule in Europe during WWII as a whole — the French, Belgians etc. didn’t “fight to the last man” akin to some stereotypical Spartan or Klingon approach to warfare. At some point, there is an understanding that is reckless and it’s time to give up. The Germans by the end past that point but also was boxed in and after Hitler died, surrendered even though it in theory could have kept fighting.

    If we were invaded, we too, I think, would at some point determine we are defeated. Military government etc. is horrible but death to the last man (or even child)? That would be worse.

    Anyway, looking over the speech, it is not some apology letter. I suggest people read it … it’s a fitting thing for Memorial Day weekend along with everything else.

    • sapient

      I completely agree.

  • erick

    I’m wonder what French thought when Reagan placed wreaths on Nazi graves.

    Actually I doubt I need to wonder.

    • Lurker

      Honouring the dead is appropriate, even if they were on the opposing side in life. Sharing the sorrow over the war dead together is part of the process of reconciliation. Reagan’s visit to Bitburg was very correct and good thing to do.

      Although I must say that the Soldatenfriedhöfe that the German federal government built after the war are really eerie places. The central German military cemetary in Finland is at Rovajärvi, in Southern Lapland. It is a relatively large mausoleum in the middle of nowhere, by a lonely, uninhabited lake. The building is a bit off the lake shore, in pine forest. It is constructed of large blocks of granite, covered by copper roof, and the dead are buried in a large hall that is illuminated only by the light coming from small slits in the walls. The mausoleum was designed to stand for centuries (my great-uncle was a master builder there, so I know from first-hand), and it looks like it.

      The German soldiers are, in essence, buried in a place that despite being built by the democratic federal Germany, embodies the theme of Ruinenwert. It looks like something designed by Albert Speer.

      http://personal.inet.fi/atk/omega/kuvat%20Norva.html

  • N__B

    OT, but not OT: I’m guessing most of you have read Hiroshima by John Hersey. Less well known and much shorter, but worth a read: “New Dawn” by Robert Penn Warren.

  • ColBatGuano

    I don’t think k’s posts even require editing to make them look like an idiot.

  • Marek

    This thread has been instructive.

  • Julia Grey

    K. is clearly having us on.

  • jonp72

    An interesting irony is the 1950s-era Right and National Review of that time period in particular opposed the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, because they believed a military land invasion of Japan would have done more to intimidate Stalin. In other words, the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki represented wishy-washy liberal “containment,” whereas the muscular anticommunists of the Right wanted “rollback” of the Soviets through a good old-fashioned land invasion. The Right may not have truly embraced the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki until they discovered it pissed off the peace movement.

  • Belloc

    Japan’s defeat and the utter destruction of her cities was but retribution from Our Lord.

    Toyotomi Hideyoshi banned the Church in Japan under his Shogunate. The faithful were persecuted and crucified for their belief in Our Lord and His Church. Faithful unto death, they suffered at the hands of this Satanic heathen.

    The most famous of our great Japanese Martyrs were crucified at Nagasaki. It is not a coincidence this was one of the cities destroyed by the Atomic Bomb. Justice was paid on that day for the persecution of the Faithful!

    Japan’s defeat in war was but Divine Retribution for these evil deeds.

    Oh Twenty-Six Martyrs of Japan, pray for us! Pray for us!

  • Belloc

    Had the Japanese followed the way of Our Lord and allowed the Church to flourish, Japan would have been a faithful Catholic Monarchy in the 20th Century, perhaps intermarried with the House of Habsburg, and not waged aggressive war against its neighbours.

    • cleter

      Um. You know the House of Hapsburg, and Hapsburgs intermarrying other royal houses, more or less started World War I, right? World War I included plenty of Hapsburg aggressive war against its neighbors.

      • Belloc

        @CLETER–

        The House of Habsburg provided peace, stability, and Godliness to Central Europe for untold Centuries. It was not Catholic Monarchy that started The Great World War, but rather false Masonic and Jewish notions of nationalism, democracy, and republicanism.

        If the poor Slavs had not been agitated by the Masons, they would have never dared fire a shot against their Heir to the Throne, his Most Catholic Majesty Franz Ferdinand.

        The Archduke was yet another victim of the false principles of 1789.

      • N__B

        You know…

        No, he doesn’t. It doesn’t matter what words follow the ellipsis, the answer is “no.”

  • Belloc

    Why Catholic Monarchy?

    An eagles aim is to not only defend the Catholic Faith but also to help restore Holy Christendom. Therefore, we are highly active in our attempts to restore the Social Kingship of Christ amongst all the lands. Specifically, in America, due to our Masonic constitution, we are striving for a new constitution which would be guided by the Divine Law.

    The State and Church are not separate, and in part, the duty of the State, is to uphold and maintain those boundaries dictated by the Church. We uphold the Rights of God and His Catholic Church not the Freemasonic rights to man which come from the Revolutionary Freemasons.

    The Eagles are the Face of the COUNTER-REVOLUTION.

    Matthew 6:10
    Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

    God’s Will= Catholic Monarchy (Counter-Revolution)
    Will of the People= Revolution, Republics, Democracy from the Masons
    The New World Order is a One World Socialist Republic headed by a Mason Antichrist.

    The “Founding Fathers” of America consecrated the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution in the NAME OF SATAN.

    Our goal is to reconsecrate it in the NAME OF CHRIST.

  • Thirtyish

    You know what they say about that Hotel California….

  • btfjd

    For an interesting perspective, read Paul Fussell’s essay “Thank God for the Atom Bomb.” Fussell was a young officer, badly wounded in Europe, who upon recovering was among the troops sent to the Pacific for the invasion of Japan. He is absolutely convinced that he would have died in that invasion had the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki not occurred. Fussell said that the more vocal the opponents of the bombings were, the farther they were from the front lines.

    Incidentally, Fussell wrote The Great War and Modern Memory. Per Wikipedia, “[i]t describes the literary responses by English participants in World War I to their experiences of combat, particularly in trench warfare. The perceived futility and insanity of this conduct became, for many gifted Englishmen of their generation, a metaphor for life. Fussell describes how the collective experience of the “Great War” was correlated with, and to some extent underlain by, an enduring shift in the aesthetic perceptions of individuals, from the tropes of Romanticism that had guided young adults before the war, to the harsher themes that came to be dominant during the war and after.”

    Sounds like he might have known something about his subject.