Thursday, August 06, 2015

On this day in 1945

At 8:15 AM on August 6, 1945 an atomic bomb was detonated over Hiroshima, Japan. Approximately 78,000 civilians were killed on that day. Six months later the death toll had risen to about 140,000 people.

There are many arguments in favor of dropping the bomb, just as there are many arguments against it. What's clear is that in the context of 2015 we are not in a good position to judge the actions of countries that had been at war for many years.

The most important lesson of Hiroshima is that war is hell and many innocent people die. It's all very well to enter into a war with the best of intentions—as the Japanese did on December 7, 1941—but it's foolish to pretend that when you start a war there won't be any suffering. When you do that, you can really say that the victims of Hiroshima will have died in vain.

The killing and maiming of civilians is an inevitable outcome of war, no matter how hard you might try to restrict your targets to military objectives. Before going to war you need to take the consequences into account and decide whether the cost is worth it.

Hiroshima was not a glorious victory. It was ugly, heartbreaking, and avoidable. War is not an end in itself, it is the failure of peace. War is not an instrument of foreign policy—it is an admission that you don't have a foreign policy.


[The top photograph shows the mushroom cloud over Hiroshima on the morning of August 6, 1945 (Photo from Encyclopedia Britanica: Hiroshima: mushroom cloud over Hiroshima, 1945. [Photograph]. Retrieved August 7, 2007, from Encyclopædia Britannica Online.

The bottom image is taken from a Japanese postcard (Horoshima and Nagassaki 1945). It shows victims of the attack on Hiroshima.]

30 comments :

  1. Japan sowed the wind at Pearl Harbor and reaped the whirlwind at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

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    1. Do you know why Japan felt it had to start a war with the USA in December 1941? Is there something that the FDR could have done to prevent it? Did he want to?

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    2. Basically, the existence of the US Pacific Fleet was seen as a threat to Japan because the whole point of the fleet was to keep the Pacific under US influence and Japan wanted to be the power there. I'm not sure what could be done other than disband the fleet (not very likely).

      And while it was clear that FDR wanted to get involved in Europe, it was less clear that he wanted a second front in Asia. And the argument that you sometimes hear that says he wanted a war with Japan because Germany would have to get involved doesn't quite make sense because the Japan-Germany treaty didn't work that way. Yes, Germany did declare war on the US shortly after, but they weren't forced to.

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    3. Let's try not to be too paranoid here. Japan attacked because the U.S. cut off its supply of scrap metal and was threatening to cut off its oil. The Japanese response was to take over the Dutch East Indies and points north, and they attacked the U.S. because they figured we wouldn't accept that takeover.

      And the U.S. cut off scrap metal because we didn't like their invasion of China. That seems like a good reason to me.

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    4. Is there something that the FDR could have done to prevent it?

      Probably - accede to the ambitions of Japan in China, Russia, and elsewhere in the Pacific, I imagine.

      Did he want to?

      Almost certainly not. My personal opinion on the basis of what little knowledge I have currently is that the specific decision to oppose Japanese ambitions even unto war was the correct one at the time.

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    5. Re Lawrence Moran

      Do you know why Japan felt it had to start a war with the USA in December 1941? Is there something that the FDR could have done to prevent it? Did he want to?

      I think Judmarc has it correct. However, the lesson of Chamberlain at Munich does not bode well for the notion that war could have been avoided, only postponed.

      The Japanese were unlucky. The 3 aircraft carriers that the US had in the Pacific and which were based in Pearl Harbor were the actual targets of the attack. Unfortunately for them and fortunately for us, all 3 were absent, 1 of them undergoing a refit in Puget Sound, the other 2 transporting planes to Wake Island.

      I think Badger is correct, Roosevelt was more concerned with events in Europe where Great Britain was hanging on by a thread.

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    6. Worth noting that FDR had frozen Japanese assets in the US and was threatening to ban Japanese imports of rubber and oil. The US was aligned with Chiang Kai-Shek then and wanted to protest the Japanese occupation of Manchuria. Japan knew it was entering into a war of attrition it could not win. Their hope was that the US would quickly sue for a negotiated peace.

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  2. At least it ended the war. There would have alternative ways to end the wall, with more US casualties for sure. BTW, Japanese army started its invasion long before 1941, and the civillian death due to Jap invasion is estimated to be 5,000,000 - 20,000,000. When is the memorial day of THOSE people?

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    1. Americans are convinced that World War II started on Dec. 7, 1941. None of the deaths before than count.

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    2. Re Laurence A. Moran

      I can only speak for this American but I am well aware that the war started in Sept., 1939, at least in Europe.

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    3. Nonexistent Jesus. The Japanese invaded Manchuria in 1931 after they arranged the fraudulent Mukden Incident, a false flag operation to justify seizing Manchuria. They set up the puppet state of Manchukuo in 1932.

      In the mid-30's, outside Harbin, they set up Unit 731, an Evil Science operation that tested methods of biological and chemical warfare. They killed about 100,000 people, mostly Chinese and some prisoners including Americans, as a direct result of their experiments and probably many more were infected indirectly by deliberately induced plague.

      The purpose of Unit 731 was to perfect biological and chemical weapons in preparation for fighting America and European powers in WWII, also to wipe out the Chinese and take their land.

      To repeat: the Japanese were preparing for or WWII by the mid-30's, maybe earlier, and their preparations consisted of experimenting on or killing hundreds of thousands of people.

      They had an actual plan to wipe out the Chinese and take their land and they knew the Americans would fight them.

      The Japanese invasion of China proper began on 7 July 1937, two years before war broke out in Europe. The carnage was horrific. Please Google Rape of Nanking and Unit 731.

      Americans have done many terrible or unjustifiable things like dropping nukes on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I don't defend that because two wrongs don't make a right.

      But the Americans did one indisputably good thing here, they slapped a blockade on the Japanese to impede their rape of China.

      That left the Japanese with two options: stop raping China, or declare war on America. The Japanese wouldn't stop raping China, so...

      I repeat: I'm not defending American nuke attacks because I think two wrongs don't make a right. The Japanese started the war with a war crime, and the Americans ended the war with a war crime.

      But Larry is dead wrong about the Japanese sneak-attacking Pearl Harbor "with the best possible intentions." No, Larry, everything they did was with the worst possible intentions.

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    4. Actually, the Japanese had three options. The third was the so-called "southern plan", which would have attacked Dutch and British possessions but avoided American ones. I believe it was rejected because the Japanese didn't believe the Americans would stay out of the conflict, and bypassing the Philippines while leaving the U.S. fleet intact would make them dangerously exposed.

      Come to think of it, there was a fourth: attack the Russian Far East. But that wouldn't solve the oil problem.

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  3. Most Americans couldn't name the antagonists of WW II, and many couldn't name the century it occurred. To many Americans WW II = The Holocaust.
    The Americans who do know something of history would know it didn't start on Dec 7....and would know who landed on Juno

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  4. Dropping the atomic bomb was avoidable. However, given the US desire to defeat Japan and the Japanese determination to resist (not to mention the Soviet Union's movement into the northern Japanese Islands), horrible casualties from battle and probably starvation were not avoidable at that time. Sadly. Terribly.

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  5. You can judge because the case is the same. God and good men have insisted you can only kill people for self protection, from them killing you, or judicial punishment.
    They are not civilians. The people, on all sides, are in motive and deed fully engaged in trying to kill/destroy the enemy. No innocent people over a childs age. Even children are into the war agenda.

    Therefore if the bomb would save even one allied life, then because that allied soldier is innocent, then the bomb was just. It was to break their will and it worked.
    We don't have to prove great numbers of our side would be saved. Our men were not less important then civilians in Japan. In fact more important because we were innocent of the evil.
    Its and good and evil.
    So it was rightly celebrated for saving our people and soon stopping Japan.

    Japan made the decision to kill people to get their way and did kill, who knows how many, in Asia and us.
    Their people were guilty of murder in Gods eyes and it should be in mans eyes. War killing is not a special right to kill except for the just.
    To care about the civilians is not to care about our men.
    No one would do that if war was here today.

    by the way they always say Tokyo was bombed so much they had almost as many civilian deaths.
    war is an extension of anger.hate and to get ones will.
    The innocent party is not a failure in their foreign policy.
    after the war america embraced Japan and today japan is a winner in mankind.
    They owe it all to America.God blesses america for this i think.

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    1. In case anyone wonders, I didn't second Robert Byer's inanities but a suggestion that has since disappeared.

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    2. Robert Byers is Canadian, so your question is likely to cause him great confusion. (Not because Canadians are easily confused, though I realize my sentence could be so interpreted.)

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    3. Robert Byers

      Since you are apparently Canadian, let's assume that some of your family members immigrated to US from Canada. Soon thereafter, because of some political/trade or similar to Japan/US disagreements during the ll world war, hostilities between Canada and US intensify.
      US and Canada seal the borders, break all agreements and due to that soon both countries are involved in a war. Due to Canadian forces attacks on US some of your now American family members die, including children as well, as many of your American church members.

      Would you still say God bless Canada for this?

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    4. Still a stupid question, Sceptical MInd. The degree to which one is personally affected by an action is hardly the best means by which to judge whether it is justified. Seems you suck at ethics as much as you do at biology.

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  6. I like how Byers is allowed the platform to express his disgusting views in this comment section, but Larry insists on people being unable to tell him to **** himself for those disgusting views.
    Sigh.

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    1. Thank-you. I'm glad you appreciate the different between disagreement and civility.

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    2. Thanks. I'm glad you consider it civil to say what Byers said above. Shows everything wrong with civility right there.

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    3. Nothing morally or intellectually wrong with what I said. if so itemize. you just accuse without the reason . I'm sure i'm right and stand by every point.
      If you don't agree say what it is and I'll think about and justify it or change.
      I;m civilized like a Canadian moose.

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    4. Robert Byers, I do disagree with your apparent understanding of dropping the bomb on Hiroshima. You do not seem to be seeing the Japanese as fully human like the Americans.

      I think that both the American and the Japanese soldiers were working hard to defend their countries and support efforts that the believed were necessary for their countries. I can't call one group innocent and the other evil. I view those soldiers as victims as well as perpetrators of the war. Although the Japanese had, and took, more opportunities to commit atrocities, and American soldiers certainly committed their own smaller scale atrocities.

      American as well as Japanese civilians worked hard to support the war efforts in their respective countries. Neither Japanese nor American civilians "deserved" to be victims of the atomic bomb.

      I can and do condemn the decisions of the of the Japanese government to engage in war to create an empire in eastern Asia. However, the American government was not exactly innocent. After all, one of our goals was to defend our colony (the Philippines) and the colonies of our European allies.

      I actually agree with you that a good argument can be made to justify dropping the bomb on Hiroshima. Considering the possible futures available at that time, this terrible tragedy may have resulted in fewer Japanese as well as American deaths than some of the alternatives. However, we must remember that this bombing was truly was terrible. It was deadly and caused unspeakable suffering for the survivors.

      I think that if we are to think of this as the best humans we can be (the closest to the ideal Christian, if you wish), we must remember that both the victims and the perpetrators were fully human beings. This event is deeply tragic.

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    5. Bothing in what i said can be seen as denying the Japanese were human.
      wjy do you say that odd thing. YES theyt were human. however they were the bad guys.
      I do not agree the enemy soldiers and civilians were innocent of the moral wrong of murder. It is a special case but the moral law stays the same.
      Did the enemy soldiers consent to kill people to advance their nation or innocently defend it.
      They did know there was a japan emore being built on others lands.
      So I see them as guilty of unjustified killing. MURDER in gods etes and should be in mans eyes.
      therefore to save innocent Yanks etc its morally right in killing guilty enemy civilians where it brings the end of their will to war.
      They were not innocent. Our soldiers were.
      Our side was not just more important it was innocent. The others were guilty of war/murder.
      Toyko, Berlin, Rome. It makes no difference.
      War is about moral right and wrong or moral wrong and wrong.
      The people are not innocent when they agree to kill other people. its that important. Soldiers are never innocent for the killing unless they are in the moral right of defence or judicial punishment.

      It is tragic and crazy. We say it shows satan is real and humans agree with his hints.
      i did not consent to the Canadian bombing in libya but did in Afghanistan.
      the latter to \defend/judicial and the former yo change a government only.

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  7. The biggest question is not why the US dropped the first bomb. The big question is why they dropped the second.

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    1. Its not surprising. It was to show them what would happen and with the hint, probably, Tokyo was next. Probably the first was not good enough but who knows. Its sad and too bad but they started the murdering and did so much more.
      It was all their fault. Even if before Pearl harbourt the president was hekping the Chinese with money and encourage to men to halp them.

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  8. So many Japanese had to die for Americans to show Uncle Joseph who is the boss. A shame.

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  9. There isn't any question that dropping bombs deliberately on a civilian population center is a war crime, as it constitutes "wanton destruction". It doesn't matter how big the bombs are. Perhaps the worst concentrated act of wanton destruction in WWII was the industrial-scale fire-bombing of Tokyo, which killed more people than both nuclear bombs together. If Truman had been tried under the Nuremburg principles (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuremberg_principles), he would have been found guilty of war crimes and possibly crimes against humanity. Roosevelt was already dead, but he would have been found guilty as well.

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