August 6, Hiroshima Day
Once again, the world remembers the first use of a nuclear weapon in war, as Hiroshima was virtually obliterated by a bomb dropped by the Enola Gay. Many people see this as a brutal act, a war crime in fact. But any such moral posturing avoid the hard truth of the lives saved by this destruction.
My Mom wasn't in Japan when the Americans dropped the bomb. She wasn't anywhere near Japan. She was in Java, a civilian in a Japanese concentration camp, on the verge of starving to death. But for the fact that the atom bombs immediately terminated the war in the Pacific, she would have died. She didn't have another month or even another week. She needed the war to end instantly. It was the bombing at Hiroshima that enabled her to survive the war.Nor was my mother alone. Truman didn't drop the bomb only to impress the Soviets or to play with an exciting new toy. He dropped the bomb because he'd been credibly advised that the Japanese were not going to surrender, but would fight the war on their own ground - and this was true despite the fact that the Japanese knew as well as the Americans did that the Japanese could not win. In July 1945, Truman was looking at the possibility of up to 50,000 more American deaths, plus all of the Japanese military and civilian deaths. (And that's not even counting the Marines already suffering unthinkable torture in Japanese camps and slave works, or American, Dutch and English civilians imprisoned all over the Pacific). Given that the Japanese had started the war and then refused to end it (even though they were losing), one big bomb that would kill the same number of Japanese with no American casualties seemed like a very good idea at the time.
In about two months, readers will be able to buy an important new book on the subject: Hell to Pay: Operation DOWNFALL and the Invasion of Japan, 1945-1947, by historian D.M. Giangreco. It describes the actual plans in place to invade Japan, which would have been used had the nuclear attack been unable to force surrender. The book also describes Operation Ketsu-go, the Japanese plans to defend the home islands from invasion.
There can be no conlcusion other than that Hiroshima and Nagasaki saved many lives by snapping Japan out of its determination to prevail or sacrifice every Japanese life trying. A Japanese friend of mine who grew up in Kyushu, slated for the first wave of the projected invasion, described being trained, at the age of eight, to hide in a hole in the ground with a straw mat on top, and explode a grenade should an American vehicle drive over the hole. He told me many years ago that he was grateful for the A-bomb saving his life.
The book can be pre-ordered now from Amazon