Tomorrow in Hiroshima, Obama should talk about all the Japanese lives saved by the atomic bombings

The mere fact of an American president going to Hiroshima is itself an acknowledgment of the horror of nuclear weapons.  But President Obama must resist the temptation to continue his global apology tour and express regret for America being the first and so far only nation to employ this weaponry.

There is no question that the A-bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki saved American lives.  What is less recognized is that it saved Japanese lives as well.  I wish President Obama would talk to my friend Ichiro (not his real name, for he is a rather prominent figure in Japan), who, a couple of decades ago, fueled by a bottle of whiskey we shared one evening, told me about his experiences as a primary school student in Kyushu during the war.  Kyushu, the mainland island closest to Okinawa, was slated to be first point for American forces to invade following the very bloody capture of Okinawa. As a result, elementary school students were enlisted in the cause of defending the Emperor and the sacred soil of Japan.

Here is what Ichiro told me he was trained to do when the Americans invaded.

He and he classmates were shown how to dig holes in the ground, cover them with straw matting and dirt, and crouch in them with sharpened sticks.  When the Americans came, they were to wait until a soldier stepped onto their hole and, when he fell in, stab him with the pointed stick.

Ichiro told me after a few drinks, even then he knew this was suicide, and he wanted no part of it.  He was grateful when the emperor’s recorded voice was heard on the radio telling the Japanese people that events had come to the point that they were to “endure the unendurable” and surrender.  He made no bones about it: the atomic weapons saved his life.

Without their use, the firebombing  raids of the B-29s (which killed far more civilians than the A bombs did) would have continued, even escalated, and when the Americans landed in Kyushu, they would have been fought every inch of the way, even by elementary school students sent on suicide missions.  My friend Ichiro is not the only Japanese person whose life was saved by President Truman’s fateful decision.

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