Tomorrow is the 64th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima, and you can expect the usual breast-beating about how unutterably evil we were to target Japan’s civilian population. Here in Marin, a “Hiroshima survivor” is going to read poems and speak about her experiences.
I freely acknowledge that this survivor went through a horrific experience that I hope is never again repeated. Still, I’d like to acknowledge the other Hiroshima bomb survivors. My Mom is one of those survivors.
My Mom wasn’t in Japan when the Americans dropped the bomb. She wasn’t anywhere near Japan. She was in Java, a civilian in a Japanese concentration camp, on the verge of starving to death. But for the fact that the atom bombs immediately terminated the war in the Pacific, she would have died. She didn’t have another month or even another week. She needed the war to end instantly. It was the bombing at Hiroshima that enabled her to survive the war.
Nor was my mother alone. Truman didn’t drop the bomb only to impress the Soviets or to play with an exciting new toy. He dropped the bomb because he’d been credibly advised that the Japanese were not going to surrender, but would fight the war on their own ground — and this was true despite the fact that the Japanese knew as well as the Americans did that the Japanese could not win. In July 1945, Truman was looking at the possibility of up to 50,000 more American deaths, plus all of the Japanese military and civilian deaths. (And that’s not even counting the Marines already suffering unthinkable torture in Japanese camps and slave works, or American, Dutch and English civilians imprisoned all over the Pacific). Given that the Japanese had started the war and then refused to end it (even though they were losing), one big bomb that would kill the same number of Japanese with no American casualties seemed like a very good idea at the time.
So as the media predictably inundates us with stories of Japanese Hiroshima survivors (or I assume it will based on past history), feel free to sympathize with their very real suffering. Please, however, take a minute to remember the other Hiroshima survivors, those whose suffering at Japanese hands was ended because of that same bomb.
UPDATE: Thomas Lifson, who was kind enough to link to this post, adds an important bit of information: D.M. Giangreco, a military historian who is one of the people most intimately familiar with the invasion of Japan, has written a book on the subject, Hell to Pay: Operation DOWNFALL and the Invasion of Japan, 1945-1947, which comes out in a month or two. I’ve corresponded with Mr. Giangreco and can assure you that he knows the subject intimately. If this subject is at all interesting to you, you should get the book.