Hiroshima – Nagasaki And U.S. Mythology


The U.S. public has been kept in the dark or misled about foreign policy for much of our history. For example, as we commemorate the 71st anniversary of the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, let’s re-examine the myth of necessity of those barbaric acts. The myth that just won’t die and is believed by most Americans is that these bombings saved millions of lives and were necessary to end WWII in the Pacific.

However, excellent work by Gar Alperovitz in his books and other writing, by Mark Weber in The Journal for Historical Review (http://www.ihr.org/jhr/v16/v16n3p-4_Weber.html) as well as by numerous other historians strongly debunk this myth. They point out that before these bombs were dropped, President Truman, U.S. military leaders and intelligence officials, as well as many in the State Department already were aware that Japan was totally defeated and trying to negotiate peace terms. Unfortunately, Truman wouldn’t pursue negotiations although the final terms for peace were essentially the same as the Japanese had offered months earlier. Below are four of the numerous relevant quotes from Weber’s article that may surprise you.

President Dwight Eisenhower strongly expressed his opposition to the use of the atomic bomb on Japan to Secretary of War Stimson in July, 1945. In a Newsweek article in 1963 Eisenhower said: “The Japanese were ready to surrender and it wasn’t necessary to hit them with that awful thing … I hated to see our country be the first to use such a weapon,”

General Curtis LeMay, who had pioneered precision bombing of Germany and Japan (and who later headed the Strategic Air Command and served as Air Force chief of staff), put it most succinctly: “The atomic bomb had nothing to do with the end of the war.”

Shortly after “V-J Day,” the end of the Pacific war, Brig. General Bonnie Fellers summed up in a memo for General MacArthur: “Neither the atomic bombing nor the entry of the Soviet Union into the war forced Japan’s unconditional surrender. She was defeated before either these events took place.”

Similarly, Admiral Leahy, Chief of Staff to presidents Roosevelt and Truman, later commented: “It is my opinion that the use of the barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan … The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender because of the effective sea blockade and the successful bombing with conventional weapons … 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 war in that fashion, and wars cannot be won by destroying women and children.”

In a 2011 piece, Gar Alperovitz referred to Pulitzer Price winning author Martin Sherwin about using the atomic bombs against Japan: American leaders “preferred” to end the war with the bombs rather than the Soviet attack. Impressing the Soviets during the early diplomatic sparring that ultimately became the Cold War also appears likely to have been a significant factor.

As if the first Cold War were not bad enough, the U.S. has started a new cold war with Russia. Some significant acts by the U.S. that threaten Russian security include the expansion of NATO towards Russia in violation of the 1990 U.S. promise not to expand NATO one inch to the East; pulling out of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 2002; supporting the 2014 coup in Ukraine that ousted the democratically elected president; budgeting to spend $1 trillion on modernization of U.S. nuclear weapons over 30 years; placing troops and additional weapon systems close to the Russian border; and conducting large scale military exercises in Eastern Europe close to Russia’s borders.

Just as we were misled on the use of the atomic weapons, we are being kept in the dark about the increasing danger of war. However William Perry, a Secretary of Defense in the Clinton administration, warned this January: “The probability of a nuclear calamity is higher today, I believe, that it was during the cold war,” Perry said. “A new danger has been rising in the past three years and that is the possibility there might be a nuclear exchange between the United States and Russia … brought about by a substantial miscalculation, a false alarm.”

NATO’s unnecessary expansion poses a real threat to Russia’s security and increases the chance of war. Please tell President Obama to stop this insanity!

Ron Forthofer is a retired professor of biostatistics and a volunteer with the Rocky Mountain Peace & Justice Center in Boulder, CO.

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