by Austin Bay
August 2, 2005
The atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima (Aug. 6, 1945) and
Nagasaki (Aug. 9) didn't end World War II -- at least not quite. The six
days between Nagasaki and Japan's surrender on Aug. 15 were six more hideous
days of war for U.S. and allied forces. Combat -- and Japanese atrocities --
continued in China, the Philippines and Southeast Asia.
They were also six days of vicious political intrigue and
turmoil in Tokyo, as the so-called "peace" and "war" factions in Japan's
high command struggled for control of the state.
In his classic essay "Thank God for the Atom Bomb," Paul Fussell
(World War II vet and National Book Award-winner) observes, "Allied
(Pacific) casualties were running to over 7,000 per week." After Nagasaki,
"captured American fliers were executed (heads chopped off); the U.S.
submarine Bonefish was sunk (all aboard drowned); the destroyer Callaghan
went down ... and the Destroyer Escort Underhill was lost."
Fussell scorns Harvard prof and insistent anti-nuclear-nit John
Kenneth Galbraith's twaddle that the A-bombs accelerated Japan's surrender
by (quoth Galbraith) "at most, two or three weeks."
Galbraith's estimate of Japan's resiliency is a typical figment
of ivory tower fevers -- military calculations at the time suggested Japan
would fight for another year. But even accepting Galbraith's breezy guess,
three more weeks of war with Japan meant another 21,000 Allied killed and
Fussell, a combat vet wounded while fighting the Nazis in
Europe, was re-assigned to a division slated to assault the Japanese island
of Honshu. Galbraith, Fussell says, "worked in the Office of Price
Administration in Washington. I don't demand that he experience having his
ass shot off. I merely note that he didn't."
Apparently, the moral facility to condemn the bomb is directly
related to one's distance, in space and time, from actual combat.
Declaring that "Hiroshima was a war crime" has become an
anti-American academic racket. One clique maintains Truman A-bombed
"yellows" in order to impress Stalin. Truman was a calculating
"racist-fascist." Such "opinions" deserve special damnation. They libel a
genuine democratic populist and the president who desegregated the American
Another clique absorbs itself in a debate over how "few"
additional casualties the Allies would have borne had they invaded Japan
Many veterans find this argument morally repugnant. Assume, as
the academic revisionists callously do, that there is some "X" number of
additional GI and Japanese military and civilian deaths from "non-atom"
warfare which is a "more morally acceptable loss" than 220,000 Japanese
civilian and military killed by atom bombs. Who, 60 years on, can name that
The critics' make much of a vague June 1945 estimate that the
Kyushu assault would cost "only" 31,000 Allied casualties. This "best case"
assumed the Japanese had 350,000 troops on Kyushu. In July 1945, the
Imperial Army deployed 560,000 troops on the island. At least 5,000
kamikazes were available.
Okinawa, where 101,000 Japanese and 24,000 Americans died,
confirmed in the minds of responsible Allied leaders the "worst case."
Fanatic Japanese resistance was a battlefield fact. Truman speculated that
atomic weapons may have saved the Allies another 500,000 dead and the
Japanese at least twice that many.
A case can be made that nuclear weapons, since they represent a
quantum boost in devastation, are different from "conventional" weapons.
"Disproportionate destruction" suggests nukes are beyond the moral pale of
Just War. This is a proposition worth debating, relevant during the Cold
War, even more relevant in an era when religious terrorists seek weapons of
Truman's context, however, was World War II. Truman, like fellow
veterans Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy, knew that for the front-line
soldier, "better them than us" is life and death immediacy, not a matter of
academic rumination -- and Truman valued American lives over an enemy's.
The shock effect of the atom super-weapon on all but the most
hardened of Japan's high command allowed Tokyo's "peace" faction to finesse
the militarist, suicidal zealots and surrender. To heck with conjecture.
This Japanese decision, goaded by The Bomb, put an end to the mutual