Friday, August 6, 2010

Three Score and Five Years Ago Today

  • "The world will note that the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, a military base. That was because we wished in this first attack to avoid, insofar as possible, the killing of civilians."
    Harry S. Truman

  • "Japan was at the moment seeking some way to surrender with minimum loss of 'face'. It wasn't necessary to hit them with that awful thing."
    Dwight D. Eisenhower

  • "[T]he use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. . . . My own feeling was that in being the first to use it, we had adopted an ethical standard common to the barbarians of the Dark Ages. I was not taught to make wars in that fashion, and wars cannot be won by destroying women and children."
    Admiral William D. Leahy

  • "Though to save life is laudable, it in no way justifies the employment of means which run counter to every precept of humanity and the customs of war. Should it do so, then, on the pretext of shortening a war and of saving lives, every imaginable atrocity can be justified."
    Major General J.F.C. Fuller

  • "If, instead of our doctrine of 'unconditional surrender,' we had all along made our conditions clear, I have little doubt that the war with Japan would have ended soon without the bomb explosion which so jarred the Christian conscience."
    Henry Luce

  • "For days and weeks after the dropping of the first atomic bomb on Japan, there was a landslide of comment, scientific, pseudo-scientific and fantastic, opinions, explanations, rejoicings, and even of thanksgiving to God. Somewhere in the enormous mass of matter dislodged, as it were, by the bomb, there may have been a moral judgement, apart from the Pope’s. If so, I confess I did not find it though I searched diligently. What I hoped to discover was an expression of the conviction that we the people of the United States and perhaps with us the people of Britain, have struck the most powerful blow ever delivered against Christian civilization and the moral law."
    Father James Gillis, CSP

  • "When, I wonder, did we in America ever get into this idea that freedom means having no boundaries and no limits? I think it began on the 6th of August 1945 at 8:15 am when we dropped the bomb on Hiroshima... Somehow or other, from that day on in our American life, we say we want no limits and no boundaries."
    Servant of God Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

  • "'Every act of war directed to the indiscriminate destruction of whole cities or vast areas with their inhabitants is a crime against God and man, which merits firm and unequivocal condemnation.' A danger of modern warfare is that it provides the opportunity to those who possess modern scientific weapons especially atomic, biological, or chemical weapons - to commit such crimes."
    Catechism of the Catholic Church - Paragraph # 2314
[Video clip from via Barefoot Gen (1983), written by Hibakusha Keiji Nakazawa, based on his own experiences; for a documentary reenactment, see here — A Crime Against God and Man.]

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23 Comments:

Blogger tubbs said...

a childish, infantile gut-reaction I suppose, on my part. My desk is next to my nite-stand, next to my bed. Riveted with terror, I had to reach over and grab my rosary off the nite-stand, not long after the clip started playing. You may have ruined my whole day, Joshua, if not more than that.

1:54 AM  
Blogger Dauvit Balfour said...

Oh, how did it sneak up on me? This day, the yearly reminder that my "good" Catholic friends have a fatally flawed moral compass when it comes to what their government may do to foreigners. Just... damn it.

4:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please post an anthology linking to your previous years' posts on these events. I recall some poignant stuff there.

8:29 AM  
Blogger The Sanity Inspector said...

It is right, good, and necessary that the events of Hiroshima and Nagasaki should give us pause, whether or not we ultimately agree with having used those weapons.

What burns me is those Japanese, or their misguided sympathizers, who use the bombings to rewrite the preceding decade's history, casting Japan as the helpless victim of the big bad Americans. The IJA's invasions of Manchuria, the Philippines, and the rest of Asia rightly became bywords for savagery beyond description. What the A-bombs did in two minutes, the Japanese did in Nanking in six months, with bayonets. Much of the worst of the IJA escaped postwar punishment, and Japan never had a national confrontation with itself, like Germany did.

1:09 PM  
Anonymous Abdul Alhazred said...

Re The Sanity Inspector:

"What burns me is those Japanese, or their misguided sympathizers, who use the bombings to rewrite the preceding decade's history, casting Japan as the helpless victim of the big bad Americans."

Having lived in Japan -- in the Hiroshima City area -- for the past five and 1/2 years, I must concur with the above -- especially when I see one of these right-wing noise trucks driving around demanding that the U.S. "apologize" for August 1945.

Regardless of your feelings about the use of the atomic bombs in August 1945, naive, unrealistic pacifist-types are using the memory of Hiroshima & Nagasaki to call for the nuclear powers to disarm themselves.

You get the same nonsense when it comes to guns: if they good guys give up their weapons then, well...golly...the bad guys will follow suit and give up theirs as well! Garsh!

Right -- India, Pakistan and Israel will give up their nukes...when Hindus start eating hamburgers, Muslims begin keeping pigs as pets, and the Israelis...well, just forget about the Israelis! As for China and Russia giving up their nukes...HA!

You've also got historical revisionist types in Japan rewriting history books to cast themselves as the liberators of their fellow Asians -- let's just pretend that all that raping of Chinese, Korean, Filipino women NEVER HAPPENED -- that all the atrocities against millions of civilians and POWs, sadistically tortured and killed, NEVER HAPPENED!

I love watching Japanese politicians complain about the protection they are afforded by the U.S. "nuclear umbrella". Yeah, I'm certain it's only Chinese and North Korean goodwill and brotherly love that's kept them from attacking Japan all these years! Right...

I cannot watch the broadcasts of the "peace memorial" ceremonies at Hiroshima without needing to vomit -- all that self-pitying, lack of context, wishful thinking on display. Just say the word "peace" a thousand times...it makes people feel good.

3:38 PM  
Blogger The Western Confucian said...

tubbs, I didn't mean to ruin your day.

Mr. Balfour, "fatally flawed moral compass[es] when it comes to what their government may do to foreigners," indeed.

Anon, here's the list from last year: Some Thoughts on the A-Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I'll update it in a new post today or on one of the following days.

Inspector and Abdul, the real amazing thing is that these days are not marked as some anti-American hatefest by the Japanese, as they would by about any other people on the planet. Amazingly gracious people, the Japanese.

Expressions like "whether or not we ultimately agree with having used those weapons" and "[r]egardless of your feelings about the use of the atomic bombs" imply that there is some moral ambiguity regarding their use. There is not. This is not an issue about which an informed conscience can come to either side.

If it were, would it have been moral to march tens of thousands of Japanese civilians, men, women, and children, into gas chambers to force their government to unconditionally surrender? After all, that would have been more humane and less destructive. Or would it have been moral to do the same to German civilians because their government did it first?

7:01 PM  
Blogger elena maria vidal said...

God have mercy.

10:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

http://www.sufferingwithjoy.com/2010/02/26/a-song-for-nagasaki-by-paul-glynn-s-m/

This is the story of Dr. Takashi Nagai, a Catholic physician who survived Nagasaki. I read somewhere else that he thought that God permitted the bomb to drop on the Church there as an example of pure sacrifice in reparation for the sins of Japan.

Faustina

12:07 AM  
Blogger The Western Confucian said...

Amen, Maria Elena Vidal.

Thanks, Faustina. One of my heroes in the Faith. I wonder if his cause is underway.

12:22 AM  
Anonymous Abdul Alhazred said...

"If it were, would it have been moral to march tens of thousands of Japanese civilians, men, women, and children, into gas chambers to force their government to unconditionally surrender? After all, that would have been more humane and less destructive. Or would it have been moral to do the same to German civilians because their government did it first?"

The U.S. government would never have marched Japanese men, women, and children into gas chambers to force their government to surrender. (Killing civilians is something the Germans and Japanese specialized in... and not for any even remotely rational purpose -- such as ending a war -- but for genocidal hatred (the Germans against the Jews, Gypsies & Slavs) or for the sheer sadistic thrill of murdering & raping those fellow Asians to express your contempt for their supposedly lower status (the Japanese against, well, ALL other Asian peoples).

Even the exhibits in the Peace Museum in Hiroshima freely admit to the extensive military presence in their city in 1945.

To ignore intention is absurd. There is a world of difference between shooting an innocent child and shooting a man who trying to kill you. The end result is the same: someone has died, that's true -- but how can you ignore the context?

In WWII, the Americans could have chosen to not bomb factories or military bases that were located near civilian homes -- after all, the mere chance that a civilian, possibly a child, might be killed is practically unavoidable in war.

But such a practice would have severely hindered the ability of the Americans to win the war against the Japanese -- the Japanese deliberately chose to locate their workers homes near war-production plants. If the U.S. had avoided bombing such places because civilians might have died, God only knows how much longer the war would've lasted, how many more tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of American soldiers would've died.

No one is happy to think of a child being killed, by an atomic bomb, an incediary bomb, or by any other kind of bomb -- but put yourself in the shoes of an American solider in the Pacific who knows there is a very good chance he is going to die on some island, never see his family again, or in the shoes of a Chinese or Filipino whose daughter has been raped, or whose son has been tortured and murdered.

I have talked with people whose families were in China and the Phillipines in the summer of 1945. They told me of their parents or grandparents reaction on hearing the news of Hiroshima: they were very, very happy.

After all they had been subjected to by the Imperial Japanese Army over the years, can you really blame them? I cannot.

11:08 AM  
Blogger The Western Confucian said...

"Killing civilians is something the Germans and Japanese specialized in..."

True. The allies specialized in it too. It was called strategic bombing, the deliberate taregeting of civilian populations to break their will, and was pioneered by our British allies, who learned it from German attacks on their own cities.

The Americans were very reluctant to go along with it. In the European theater, the Yanks would take the far riskier day missions to bomb military targets, while the Brits took the easier night missions bombing neighboorhoods, where precision was not important.

The Americans crossed over to the darker side with the bombing of Berlin, which killed 3000 civilians, and paved the way for the atrocities at Dresden, Tokyo, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki.

You say, "The U.S. government would never have marched Japanese men, women, and children into gas chambers to force their government to surrender." Maybe not, but we dropped atmoic bombs on two cities to the same effect.

The facts remain:

1.) The Japanese were sending out surrender feelers since April 1945. They just wanted to keep their Emperor.

2.) The Americans demanded "undonditional surrender."

3.) Two atomic bombs were dropped to warn the Soviets and keep them out of Japan.

4.) Japan surrendered and was allowed to keep the Emperor anyway, the demand they had made all along.

5.) The a-bombs were not employed tyo defeat Japan; they were employed to warn the Soviets.

12:44 PM  
Blogger The Western Confucian said...

I should add that whatever atrocities Japan and Germany were guilty of are immaterial when deating the morality of the mass-slaughter of civilians in Dresden, Toyko, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki.

This debate between a Catholic traditionalist and an Americanist "conservative" cannot be recommended highly enough -- Debating Hiroshima.

2:19 PM  
Blogger kushibo said...

The Insanity Inspector wrote:
What burns me is those Japanese, or their misguided sympathizers, who use the bombings to rewrite the preceding decade's history, casting Japan as the helpless victim of the big bad Americans.

I've long written of Yasukuni Shrine's Yushukan Museum and Hiroshima's Peace Memorial Museum as two bookends of the Japanese mindset, and I will tell you that that view is (officially, at least) the Yasukuni view, not the Hiroshima view.

In this March 2009 post, about Koreans from a small town who were heavily affected by the Hiroshima atomic bombing, I mentioned that while the Hiroshima memorial curators extensively make the case why the bombs should not have been dropped, "they also make crystal clear that the war of aggression itself was ultimately the fault of Imperial Japan, and that millions of innocent people across Asia suffered or died as a result." In fact, they do this right at the beginning.

The IJA's invasions of Manchuria, the Philippines, and the rest of Asia rightly became bywords for savagery beyond description. What the A-bombs did in two minutes, the Japanese did in Nanking in six months, with bayonets. Much of the worst of the IJA escaped postwar punishment, and Japan never had a national confrontation with itself, like Germany did.

Again, this is the Yasukuni view. The all-excuses-no-apologies version of modern Japanese history and warfare to the end of World War II is laid out, including hints that certain territories (such as the entire Korean territory) were legitimately obtained and illegitimately taken.

I am loath to blame the Hiroshima camp for such views, many of which they find reprehensible, though people such as commenter Abdul suggest that the Yasukuni camp is co-opting the Hiroshima narrative for their own purposes.

12:58 AM  
Blogger The Western Confucian said...

Having been to both A-Bomb museums, I can say that the one in Nagasaki minces no words about Japanese imperialism and the suffering Koreans. While the one in Hiroshima tends to place blame on nobody, neither the Japanese or Americans, the one in Nagasaki provides a far more moving meditation on the nature of Evil, fitting for a Holy City.

1:15 AM  
Anonymous Abdul Alhazred said...

Historians and others will be debating the necessity and/or morality of the Hiroshima & Nagasaki bombings forever, I think.

As for myself, I would prefer to see the Japanese focus more on what happened in Nanking, Manila, and other places.

Most (yes, not all, but most) victims of the A-bomb died in the flash of an instant. The same cannot be said for the victims of Japanese rape, torture and murder -- nor for the victims of Auschwitz and other Nazi murder camps.

Why the obsessive focus on the deaths at Hiroshima -- and less so on the (far more numerous) deaths of civilians in the firebombings of Tokyo? I believe it is because most Japanese, in their hearts, believe it WAS the atomic bomb which forced them to surrender -- not Soviet invasion of Manchuria or any other cause.

It was this new and terrible weapon that the Emperor made mention of in his radio speech announcing that the Japanese were quitting -- it was the psychological shock of an unprecedented use of technology that forced them to admit that the game was up. It was what the Emperor needed to overcome the objections (numerous objections) of hard-headed rightists who wanted to continue the fight until the bitter end, to the last man, woman and child in Japan.

By focusing on Hiroshima, they hope to absolve their national feeling of collective guilt for their aggressive war against their neighbors. Only something as terrible as an atomic bomb could allow them to say to themselves: we never surrendered ever before, but with this new, evil weapon, we had NO choice but to surrender.

It's a way of saving face -- a concept much more integral to Japanese culture than "pacifism".

Yukio Mishima knew what he was talking about in that regard anyway.

12:35 PM  
Blogger Jonathan Wolfe said...

"Amazingly gracious people, the Japanese."

If you mean the white-washed posturing and victim-mongering that goes on whenever the anniversary of the dropping of the atom bombs rolls around, I would have to disagree. My grandparents still have memories of Manila under the Japanese jackboot, and the levelling of the city by the Japanese when it became clear they could not hold it.

That said I always believed that it was the soldier's lot to die in battle, and that the surrender of Japan should have been brought about by soldiers than by bombs. There is just something uncivilized about killing an enemy without looking into his face. I find thousands of Allied soldiers dead more acceptable than thousands of civilians destroyed.

5:06 PM  
Blogger The Sanity Inspector said...

There is just something uncivilized about killing an enemy without looking into his face. I find thousands of Allied soldiers dead more acceptable than thousands of civilians destroyed.

The First World War, with its machine guns and massed artillery, put an end to that kind of pseudo-gallantry. Harold MacMillan, as a young tommy in the trenches, wrote to his mother thus:

"Perhaps the most extraordinary thing about a modern battlefield is the desolation and emptiness of it all...one cannot emphasize too much. Nothing is to be seen of war or soldiers--only the split and shattered trees and the burst of an occasional shell reveal anything of the truth. One can look for miles and see no human being. But in those miles of country lurk (like moles or rats, it seems) thousands, even hundreds of thousands of men, planning against each other perpetually some new device of death. Never showing themselves, they launch at each other bullet, bomb, aerial torpedo and shell. And somewhere too (on the German side we know of their existence opposite us) are the little cylinders of gas, waiting only for the moment to spit forth their nauseous and destroying fumes. And yet the landscape shows nothing of all this--nothing but a few shattered trees and three or four lines of earth and sandbags, these and the ruins of towns and villages are the only signs of war anywhere visible. The glamour of red coats--the martial tunes of flag and drum--aide-de-camps scurrying hither and thither on splendid chargers--lances glittering and swords flashing--how different the old wars must have been!"

12:23 AM  
Blogger The Sanity Inspector said...

Whatever anyone's opinion may be, honesty requires that everyone make mental note of the fact that we have the whole remainder of history to second-guess. There was a time when these events were occurring point-blank, and decisions were made without the luxury of decades of hindsight. As La Rochefoucauld said, "Philosophy triumphs over past and future evils, but present evils triumph over it."

12:24 AM  
Blogger The Western Confucian said...

Like abortion, the issue is simple: Is it moral to target civilians for political and/or military reasons?

Osama bin Laden and Harry Truman say yes.

The Catholic Church has said no since she has had the power to do so, from 390 AD, when Saint Ambrose had threatened Emperor Theodosius I with excommunication after the massacre of 7000 civilians in Thessalonica, and the most powerful man on earth perfoemed several months of very public penance before the Bishop of Milan.

6:20 AM  
Anonymous Abdul Alhazred said...

Harry Truman = Osama bin Laden?

Hmph...

I would agree that civilians should not be deliberately targeted. Hiroshima WAS a military city, however -- therefore a legitimate target as far as the U.S. was concerned.

Again: to fight a war based on being extra-careful to avoid killing civilians is ridiculously unrealistic and next to impossible.

Also, whether or not you agree that Truman's actions were necessary to end the war, the end result was that Japan emerged as the strongest, most prosperous democracy in East Asia, with the highest standard of living, and so on and so forth. The losers included the Chinese and North Korean people.

On the other hand we have Osama bin Laden, a murderous religious fanatic who regards democracy and individual rights as un-Islamic -- whose triumph would include establishing a theocratic dictatorship where books are banned, women are executed in soccer stadiums for showing a little too much hair or ankle, and youngsters are encouraged to blow themselves (and others) up because it pleases Allah.

Of course Truman knew that civilians would be killed in Hiroshima -- and Tokyo and Osaka and every other area where Japan was bombed. But the Japanese made little distinction at the time between "soldiers" and "civilians".

Even after the A-bombing of Hiroshima, the Japanese government had women and children practicing with bamboo spears to fight against the expected invasion of the evil white people from America.

Before Hiroshima, the peace faction were a minority in the Japanese Cabinet and high officials. After Nagasaki a lot of the military hothead bastards were busy committing ritual suicide -- which is what they should have done prior to August 6th, thus saving the Japanese public the additional deaths at Hiroshima & Nagasaki.

Osama bin Laden's suicide would also be a good thing for this world. What good has he ever done ANYONE in his life?

10:37 AM  
Anonymous Abdul Alhazred said...

"I find thousands of Allied soldiers dead more acceptable than thousands of civilians destroyed."

I agree with most of Jonathan Wolfe's post -- but as for the above, we have to remember that, had the war in the Pacific continued past August 1945, it would not have been only more thousands of dead Allied soldiers -- it would have been probably millions more dead civilians -- far, far more than those who died in Hiroshima & Nagasaki.

10:41 AM  
Blogger The Western Confucian said...

"Harry Truman = Osama bin Laden?"

Suggested reading: Pat Buchanan's Hiroshima, Nagasaki & Christian morality. An excerpt:

"That good came out of Hiroshima and Nagasaki is undeniable. In a week, Japan surrendered, World War II ended and, across the Japanese empire, soldiers laid down their arms. Thousands of U.S. soldiers and hundreds of thousands of Japanese who would have perished in an invasion of Japan survived, as did Allied POWs who might have been executed on the orders of Japanese commanders when we landed.

"But were the means used – the destruction in seconds of two cities, inflicting instant death on 120,000 men, women and children, and an agonizing death from burns and radiation on scores of thousands more – moral?

"Truman's defenders argue that by using the bomb, he saved more lives than were lost in those cities. Only the atom bombs, they contend, could have shocked Japan's warlords into surrender.

"But if terrorism is the massacre of innocents to break the will of rulers, were not Hiroshima and Nagasaki terrorism on a colossal scale? "

10:49 AM  
Blogger John from Daejeon said...

"Amazingly gracious people, the Japanese."

Tell that to all those who suffered and died from the living hell done by the Japanese and Unit 731 and how their atrocities were covered up the U.S. government in return for both the data and these truly despicable 'evil' scientists (who went to work in the U.S.) in the immediate aftermath of a War the U.S., originally, wanted no part of.

Some of these horrors are revisited in the 1988 movie, Men Behind the Sun. It’s just too bad that this horrible film wasn’t fictional. Instead, it is based on actual Japanese cruelty on civilians such as live vivisections and 50 other lethal experiments ranging from frost bite tests on human flesh and bomb blasts exposure. Men, women, and children were all fodder for these heinous experiments for the good of the Emperor and Japan

I don’t know about you, but while my high school and university history books were/are filled with countless pages dedicated to the horror Hitler and German wrought upon our world, they were all devoid of the same hell that the Emerpor and their evil genius, General Shirō Ishii unleashed.

“Arrested by the US occupation authorities at the end of World War II, Ishii and other Unit 731 leaders received immunity in 1946 from war-crimes prosecution before the Tokyo tribunal in exchange for germ warfare data based on human experimentation.” --wikipedia

More like, "Amazingly gracious people, those Americans.”

11:58 AM  

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