Voice from the Commonwealth Commentary, World Views and Occasional Rants from a small 'l' libertarian in Massachussetts
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James Carroll has a piece today about America's 'crime' of dropping the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, claiming that the US did it stricly as to intimidate Russia. I objected enough to send a letter:
I find Mr. Carroll’s characterization of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as crimes to be offensive. He completely discounts the possibility of millions of dead Americans and Japanese in a horrible campaign on the Japanese mainland to give the Americans a more sinister and cynical motive for the use of atomic weapons. He does this by misrepresenting what was happening in the Pacific Theater.
In the months leading up to the firebombing and the atomic bombs that were dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima the Americans and Japanese fought a number of grim battles, where American troops were often outnumbered, that resulted in hundreds of thousands of dead. Battles so fierce that their names have, rightly, entered our lexicon of sacred places. Places where Americans fought against overwhelming numbers and won. Iwo Jima and Okinawa where 19,341 Americans lost their lives and 58,229 were wounded and the Japanese lost an estimated 130,000.
These were battles for small patches of land. Despite Mr. Carroll’s depiction of ‘de-fanged’ Japan, the truth is that until these battles were won and the first firebombing of Tokyo occurred on May 10th, the Japanese mainland had not been the site of a single battle. A still fresh population in a land that had not, like Europe, faced hard years of war could hardly be described as ‘de-fanged’. The final push to Berlin by the Americans, Russians, British and other allied forces cost upwards of a million casualties. This was against an all but defeated German army that had its collective back against its own capital and whose industry and population had, to that point, taken a much more severe blow than the Japanese had. What would the cost have been for a nearly all-American force to invade the Japanese homeland in an attempt to end the war? We will never know for sure, but looking at the grinding defense of Iwo Jima, Okinawa and Berlin we can, with some authority, assume that the losses would have been great.
Mr. Carroll says that by this time there was ‘no chance of an allied defeat’. This is misdirection on Mr. Carroll’s part. The questions asked in dropping the bomb was not ‘If we do not do this will we lose the war?’ it was ‘If we do not do this how many more Americans and Japanese are going to die and how many more years will it take for Japan to concede it has lost?’ The alternative would have been to maintain conventional bombing of the Japanese mainland followed by a ground invasion. Does Mr. Carroll maintain that this would have resulted in fewer deaths (military and civilian)? If so I would argue that he is delusional. On the contrary dropping the bombs can, accurately, be said to have saved lives, both American and Japanese.
If Mr. Carroll would truly like to find crimes during World War Two, I suggest he look into the Rape of Nanking (200,000-300,000 innocent Chinese civilians slaughtered by Japanese soldiers in Nanking and 20-30 million more during the entire occupation of China), or perhaps the Holocaust, or the Bataan Death March. His self-flagellation here is pitiful and an insult to those who fought and died in the battle to defeat Imperial Japan.
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