Sunday, July 31, 2005

La Vanguardia is at it again. They've published a special article on the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in their Sunday magazine supplement. It contains about fifteen pages on the tragedy of the deaths of 200,000 people, but does not mention, say, the Rape of Nanking or the Bataan death march or the sack of Manila or the attack on Pearl Harbor or the invasions of China, Indochina, Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Burma. Here are a few quotes:

Was it absolutely necessary to raze two cities populated mostly by children, women, and old people?

Hiroshima was the headquarters of the Japanese Second Army and about 10,000 of the dead were Japanese soldiers.

The bomb had no military justification; the defeat of Japan was a fact and its unconditional surrender was a question of a few months...The new artefact contained a message of world power...whose real addressee was the Soviet Union...The United States wanted to show that it had the bomb and that it was willing to use it without moral reservations, without limits, without the brake of pity. Why did the United States choose the cruelest option?

In summer 1945, American casualties were about 1000 a day, 7000 a week, 30,000 a month. The sooner the war ended, the fewer Americans would die. The American government's goal was therefore quite obviously to end the war as soon as possible, not "in a few months."

Japan was clearly defeated after the battle of Midway in 1942, but was unwilling to surrender. Instead, it fought on for three more years, and it wanted to fight to the death. Japan had 10,000 kamikaze planes, 2,350,000 trained troops, and a civilian militia of 28 million armed with bows and arrows, spears, and muzzle-loading muskets ready to resist the Americans. No Japanese force, not even a single battalion, ever surrendered to the Americans during the whole war until its very end. As late as August 9, 1945, after the bombing of Nagasaki, the Japanese inner cabinet (the "Big Six") was split three-to-three on surrender and Hirohito finally broke the tie. This was the very first time surrender was even considered.

Conventional bombing was not going to make Japan surrender. We had hit their sixty largest cities beginning in February 1945 and pretty much burned them out, and we created a firestorm in Tokyo that killed more than 100,000 people on the night of March 9, 1945, more than either Hiroshima or Nagasaki.

The number of people killed if America had invaded Japan, which it planned to do in two stages, an invasion of Kyushu in November 1945 and then a final assault on Tokyo in March 1946, while the British invaded the Malay Peninsula and retook Malaya and Singapore in November 1945, would have dwarfed the number of victims of the atomic bomb. We now know that the Japanese anticipated the Kyushu invasion and had fourteen divisions on the island. The US military estimated that there would have been 100,000 American casualties in the landings, and these calculations were based on fighting only three Japanese divisions, which is what we thought they had on Kyushu. It's more likely that American casualties would have been on the order of several hundred thousand, and if we had had to invade Honshu, over a million. The American planners assumed that fighting in Japan itself would have been like fighting on Iwo Jima and Okinawa, the most horrible battles fought in modern history. At Okinawa we lost 12,500 dead and the Japanese lost 185,000 dead, half civilians. More than a million Japanese would certainly have been killed in an American invasion.

Meanwhile, the Americans had wiped out Japan's merchant fleet, as the Japanese had no concept of submarine warfare. And what we learned in Germany, after years of trial and error, is that the best bombing targets are railroad junctions. The plan was to hit a dozen key bridges and about fifty key railway yards and junctions along the Pacific coast of Honshu and destroy Japan's capacity to transport food. Tokyo, for example, produced only 3% of the food it needed. With no ships or trains to deliver food, literally millions of Japanese civilians would have died within a few weeks--they were already down to rations of fewer than 1500 calories a day--and the country would have been completely destroyed. And we were planning to use chemical warfare on their rice crop, if necessary, as well as poison gas. There would be no Japan today.

As for charges that the Americans were trying to scare the Soviets, the answer is quite simply no. They were trying to put an end to the war. The Soviets already knew we had the atomic bomb, as the Klaus Fuchs spy ring had kept Stalin informed.

To quote Richard Frank, "The atomic bomb was the least abhorrent choice." And to quote Paul Fussell, "Thank God for the atom bomb."

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