Sunday, March 02, 2008

The Atomic Bomb


By Richard E. Noble

To our many veterans and World War II veterans in particular, an important transition has just taken place. Commander Tibbetts of Enola Gay fame has died just recently. Both he and President Harry S Truman expressed their opinion that they never lost a night of sleep over their part in dropping Atomic Bombs on Japan to conclude World War II.
The controversy concerning dropping the Atomic Bomb on Japan is over whether we should have killed a few hundred thousand Japanese civilians or let an equal number of American soldiers die on the shores and coast lines of the Japanese mainland, right?
Wrong. According to the history books that I have been reading, and I have been reading no secret documents, or CIA hidden files. I have been reading the basic books by a variety of writers and historians. It seems to be common historical knowledge that the Japanese had been trying to surrender prior to Hiroshima and Nagasaki. They had petitioned the Russians to act as an intermediary for them. They had the correct suspicion that after Pearl Harbor, the Bataan Death March, and their treatment of captured Americans, the U.S. of A. might not be too sympathetic. In any case, the Russians who still remembered their own Japanese sneak attack a few wars earlier were really not overly tender hearted with regard to the "Japs" either. BUT, it is said that the message that the Japanese wanted to surrender was conveyed to the Americans and to President Truman and his advisers. But the Japanese had a stipulation to their surrender. They would only surrender if the Americans would promise not to humiliate the Emperor. Supposedly Harry Truman was informed of this request, and it was denied on the grounds that the U.S. would accept nothing less than an unconditional surrender.
Next a group of scientists requested that Harry drop a practice Atomic bomb on some deserted spot, for the Japanese to observe, with the implicit message that you better look a' here, because this could be you. Supposedly Harry refused this request due to lack of time, money, and atomic bombs.
In any case, we all know what happened next. The United States goes down in the History books as the only country to ever nuke anybody.
A very interesting non-judgmental book depicting this horror is "Hiroshima" by John Hershey. Hershey makes no judgments about the decision but follows the tragic lives of several of the survivors from ground zero. The blast of the bomb actually melted the eyeballs of people and pealed the flesh from their faces - and these live corpses were still walking around days and weeks after the explosion. It is a difficult book to read but very worth while.
But war is Hell, and most World War II vets heartily agree with the decision - better them than me, they all justifiably hail. The only problem is that was not the choice - it would not have been them in either case, it seems.
One thing that bothers me about the whole deal is that after the bombs are dropped and the hated Japs surrender, does MacArthur go in, grab Hirohito by the ears, bring him to the top of the tallest temple in town and throw the little bugger off, head first as we could have expected would have been done to Adolf?
No. No he doesn't. In fact, Hirohito doesn't even have to appear at the signing of the surrender. Hirohito doesn't even have to announce to the Japanese people that he is not God, or God's immediate descendant. He does make such an announcement later, on his own, and without provocation, but nobody forces him. On top of all that he gets a "pension" from the U.S. Government (via the American taxpayers). Can you imagine if we gave Adolf Hitler a pension so that he could continue living in the style that he was accustomed because he was so respected by the German people?
But why didn't they execute the Emperor?
MacArthur told Truman that the occupation would be much simpler and less troublesome if the Emperor were treated with respect and dignity. Humiliating the Japanese Emperor would have been comparable to crucifying Jesus in the eyes of the Japanese people, said Mac.
Now that seems alright to me also, but if that was going to be the attitude why didn't Harry accept or acknowledge the overtures made by the Japanese to the Ruskies in the first place? And why didn't Mac tell the president of this opinion in the first place? No more Americans would have died, hundreds of thousands of non-combatant Japanese civilians (old women and children) would not have been incinerated, and the United States of America would not go down into the History books as the only people in the History of mankind to ever use a weapon of such indiscriminate destructive power and horror.
The latest book that I have read on this subject by Gar Alperovitz analyzes this whole thing in detail. On the back of the book Mr. Alperovitz has quotes from General Eisenhower, Admiral Leahy and General "Hap" Arnold who all made their opinions known to Truman that they disagreed with the use of the Bomb. They all thought that it was unnecessary and a disgrace to the name and reputation of the United States.
This book (along with many others) suggests the notion that the bomb was actually dropped for political reasons. Chief among those political reasons being the basic cold war and Iron Curtain anti-Communist attitudes proliferated by Churchill, Byrnes, Truman and other right-wing conservatives and liberals of the day. They wanted to frighten Stalin and intimidate the pro-Communists Asian continent.
The bomb cost 2 billion to produce and there is also mention of the economic justification to the American public. This seems rather ludicrous when we analyze the expenditures of war these days and the "justification" of these expenditures to the American taxpayer. What justification?
I guess that we could say that this is all ancient history and so it is. I just wish that both Harry Truman and Commander Tibbetts didn't say that their parts in this human tragedy didn't even cost them one night loss of sleep.
Whether necessary to save American lives or not - it should have cost any human being a few nights of lost sleep. It does me and I had nothing to do with it. To drop a bomb that incinerates hundreds of thousands of civilians – old men, women and children – I should think is a horrible burden for anyone to sleep with.

Richard E. Nobleis a freelance writer. He has authored two books: "A Summer with Charlie" which is currently listed on and "Hobo-ing America" which should be listed on Amazon in the not too distant future. Most recently he completed his first novel "Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother" which will be published soon.