Facts about US aims at Hiroshima and Nagasaki

Protest against Japanese Prime Minister Abe’s new security laws at the Peace monument in Hiroshima August 6, 2015.

One of the controversies about how the atrocities at Hiroshima and Nagasaki are remembered concerns the U.S. aims in dropping the bombs. History as written by the victors declared that this act was necessary to force the surrender of militarist Japan and bring an end to the war. The death and destruction was a tragedy but the Japanese people themselves bore responsibility for their own suffering, so the story goes. To this day the U.S. refuses to apologize for these war crimes and on a visit to Hiroshima on May 27 U.S. President Obama did not even acknowledge that the U.S. perpetrated the crimes or why, merely stating that “death came from the sky.”

What many knew at the time is that there was no military purpose behind the use of the atomic bomb. Gar Alperovitz, U.S. author of several books on the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki notes in an August 6, 2015 article:

“The top American military leaders who fought World War II… were quite clear that the atomic bomb was unnecessary, that Japan was on the verge of surrender, and – for many – that the destruction of large numbers of civilians was immoral.

“Adm. William Leahy, President Truman’s Chief of Staff, wrote in his 1950 memoir I Was There that ‘the use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender. In being the first to use it, we adopted an ethical standard common to the barbarians of the Dark Ages. I was not taught to make war in that fashion, and wars cannot be won by destroying women and children.’

“The commanding general of the U.S. Army Air Forces, Henry ‘Hap’ Arnold, gave a strong indication of his views in a public statement only eleven days after Hiroshima was attacked. Asked on August 17 by a New York Times reporter whether the atomic bomb caused Japan to surrender, Arnold said that ‘the Japanese position was hopeless even before the first atomic bomb fell, because the Japanese had lost control of their own air.’

“Fleet Adm. Chester Nimitz, Commander in Chief of the Pacific Fleet, stated in a public address at the Washington Monument two months after the bombings that ‘the atomic bomb played no decisive part, from a purely military standpoint, in the defeat of Japan’ […]

“Even the famous ‘hawk’ Maj. Gen. Curtis LeMay, head of the Twenty-First Bomber Command, went public the month after the bombing, telling the press that ‘the atomic bomb had nothing to do with the end of the war at all.’

“We do know that some of President Truman’s closest advisers viewed the bomb as a diplomatic and not simply a military weapon. Secretary of State James Byrnes, for instance, believed that the use of atomic weapons would help the United States more strongly dominate the postwar era. According to Manhattan Project scientist Leo Szilard, who met with him on May 28, 1945, ‘[Byrnes] was concerned about Russia’s postwar behavior … [and thought] that Russia might be more manageable if impressed by American military might, and that a demonstration of the bomb might impress Russia.’”

(“The War Was Won Before Hiroshima – And the Generals Who Dropped the Bomb Knew It,” The Nation.)

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Filed under Asia, History, United States

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