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Hiroshima Day, August 6th,


larkin

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ncpp (not a cut and paste piece)

In the US, the attack on Pearl Harbor is never forgotten. Every year on December 7, there is an national observance of those who lost their lives.

But there is another day of observance held in the rest of the world but never in the US. That is August 6, 1945. This was the day that the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima resulting in 120,000 lives and by today's standards, it was a rather small bomb.

This is not to lay blame nor am I suggesting we forego observing 12/7/41. what is now called, Pearl Harbor Day.

Acknowledging August 6th 1945 doesn't mean anyone was right or wrong but it calls attention the significance of an event that from that day forward, has had an affect on all civilization and we must be reminded ourselves that the threat is enjoying an ominous resurgence on the world stage.

Pearl Harbor is important to Americans and should remain so, but in the scheme of the human experience it doesn't count for much. This not true for the threat of mutually assured destruction.

To maintain ties between these two events means that Japan got what they deserved for the attack on Pearl Harbor and since the US and Japan have been friends and partners for 70 years, this is hardly a constructive way forward.

The US is reluctant to revise its view on history because it reserves the right to unquestioningly support the use of these weapons even without prior attack and on nations that do not necessarily possess nuclear weapons. This will and is, provoking a reinitiation of the nuclear arms race that will be more frightening than anything the cold war ever had to offer.
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It is interesting to note that even if the United States had developed the atomic bomb a year earlier that it would probably not have been used on the Germans. The European war was far different, and by the end much of Germany had suffered enough and was ready to capitulate. Berlin was a pile of rubble and Dresden was just gone. The situation in the Pacific was another matter.

Although General MacArthur was making plans for the invasion of the Japanese mainland islands the stark reality of the casualty statistics the planners forecast was astounding. Taking into account nearly a million men to invade they predicted a full one third would be killed or severely wounded. The now famous battles on Iwo Jima and Guadalcanal had decimated military battalions, the soldiers were tired and the nation had had just about enough.

Interesting to note that Harry Truman had only been in office a short time when he made the decision to drop the bombs. But he had stood on the sidelines as Roosevelt pushed U.S forces across the Pacific and knew what an invasion of Japan would do to the troops. Of course by then the Japanese atrocities in the Philippines and China were known, the Kamikaze pilots were attacking U.S ships, and the general attitude of the Japanese military was not to surrender at any cost.

The structure of the Japanese government allowed the military to control nearly everything. The people of Japan knew little about the real progress of the war and even the Emperor was kept in the dark on many important matters. All that ended in a flash on August 6th, 1945.

I arrived in Tokyo ten years later during the summer of 1955. I was only five years old but I knew something about the war because my father had been in it. I had been told that we had been at war with Japan but that now we were friends. The only hostility I ever felt while I lived there was not aimed at the Americans or other foreigners, but was leveled by the Japanese people towards their former rulers. Ten years on the nation was in recovery and America was helping fulfill that massive task.

As an aside I must tell you that I played with many neighborhood Japanese kids. They learned a little English in school and I learned a lot of Japanese from them. We had battles in some of the vacant lots around the neighborhood, but we were not playing at soldiers, that seemed to be off limits. Instead we played at cowboys and Indians...no I am not joking. Japanese television was dismal, but they were circulating American comic books at an incredible rate and the cowboy and Indian stories were favored.

The remembrances of August 6th still go on in Hiroshima. In the 1950's Americans were discouraged from visiting there because the U.S. government had concerns about our safety which only shows how little they knew of the Japanese people. In all of my six years in Japan I was approached many times on streetcars, in stores and on the street. "I am sorry," they would say either in English or Japanese. There was no need to ask why, they were apologizing for their homeland. How many Americans could do that today?

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On my History Blog, (Historum.com) I have debated this issue over and over whether the US should have or should have resorted to other means or whether Truman made the decision or if it was handed to him with all the rationals in place no longer matters to me and I am attempting to raise it to a higher plane.

I envy your childhood trip to Japan. I am sure it had an effect on your life.

I was in Berlin when the Wall came down and I had great hopes but not so much lately...

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The is an informed school of thought amongst some historians of the period that even when Truman was presented with the arguments about dropping the bomb he was in too minds about authorising it. It was only when he was shown intelligence which indicated that Russia was planning to grab most of Europe that he went ahead and gave permission, seeing it as a demonstration to Stalin as to what the USA could do if Russia went ahead with its plans. It probably had little effect on Stalin as he already knew about the bomb, though it may have influenced his position over Austria and Finland.

One can argue long and hard over the rights or wrong of dropping the bomb, especially whether, as was one plan, that it should have been dropped first on one of the uninhabited islands as a demonstration of the power of the bomb. All I can say is that one of my Sensei whose father was a palace functionary at the time said his father told him that if the bomb had not been dropped the Emperor could not have pulled off the palace coup which effectively put the military out of power. On the other hand we must remember that the Japanese had already offered a conditional surrender thirteen days earlier. Their only condition being that the person and status of the Emperor must be respected. In the end that was given anyway as MacArthur knew full well that without the person of the Emperor it would be impossible to control Japan after the surrender. This had already been told to Truman.

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I agree with Chris. We were told well after the fact that the Japanese population had been brainwashed into believing it was their solemn duty to defend their island to their death, and everyone was arming themselves with whatever would serve as weapons. I'd heard estimates that are well over Chris's; I heard the number of 1 million casualties on our side being bandied about.

Yes, the Japanese lost a lot of people in the two bombings, but I've also read in many accounts that the numbers on both sides would have been much higher had we eventually invaded the Japanese homeland. In that regard, and if it were true, we actually hastened the end of hostilities and reduced the lost of life accordingly.

No one wants to celebrate the killing of soldiers. Remembering them for doing their duty as they understood it seems fine.

C

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With all due respect, these arguments have been advanced many times since 1945. I have participated in more than a few. I no longer dispute any of them because any and all decisions are 70 years in the past and now they are just speculation.

I am suggesting that it no longer matters who dropped it or whether or not is was justified. What matters is that nuclear weapons still exist and are a continuing threat to us all and that threat has been recently rising.

I understand the resistance against Iran getting a bomb in order to prevent further proliferation but the US has just refurbished it entire arsenal of 4000 bombs and modified the laws allowing the president alone to launch a pre-empted attack on any nation he chooses.

This will no doubt cause Russia and China to do the same.

For all you writers out there, I have a sick feeling that perhaps they actually want a nuclear conflagration as some kind of re-set for civilization.

Perhaps it is no accident that apocalypse fiction as a genre has been coming into its own..

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The rights or wrong of what is done in war does not matter, all that is important is that we remember that in any war it is the innocent who suffer.

The 6th of August is a good day to remember this.

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The Japanese bombing hastened the end more than the Dresden one did. Dresden came a couple of months before the German surrender. In Japan, they surrendered two days later.

But both had the effect of showing the enemy we would do whatever it took to win. There were doubts of that before. There were none after.

C

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I remember thinking my father was a hawk while I was the dove. We had deep discussions when I was in high school about war, communism, and the bomb.

In seventh grade we had one of those duck and cover drills which earned me a detention when I spoke out about the foolishness of cowering under a desk during a nuclear attack. That was the beginning of my activism. Much to my father's dismay I became a peacenik and that only intensified our discussions.

I was of the opinion that his generation was responsible for the nuclear threat we now lived under and he gave me back that standard line about how the bomb assured us peace. For a long time in my teen years we endured the standoff between the US and the Soviet Union, and then things changed. It would be good to think that world leaders came to a rational conclusion that nuclear war would be the end of us all, but the standoff ended for financial reasons.

A dozen years ago I recall reading an interview with a former Soviet general who said that their rocket forces were in a shambles. He suggested that if their leaders had called for a nuclear launch that perhaps a quarter of the missiles would have blown up on the launch pad and detonated the bombs.

Today we worry about Iran getting the bomb. Of more immediate concern is that terrorists like ISIS may steal one from Pakistan. The latest manifesto from ISIS is in the news and it calls for the end of the world. A bomb in the hands of these people would not end the world, just their piece of it. Fanatics have always been the issue. A fanatic with a bomb would leave other nations with no choice except the nuclear option.

Looking back I can see the blind innocence of the peaceniks when it comes to global political issues. But the bomb gave activists a focal point, an object to revile, a cause to espouse. That peace generation is now entrenched in governments across the globe. Let's hope we don't forget that earlier commitment to peace.

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The Teaching Company has a course on World War II in which the professor talks about the bomb and Japan. According to Japanese records made public long after the war, Hirohito's war council met after Hiroshima on the question of surrender. The vote was unanimous not to surrender. So much for the demonstration-on-an-uninhabited-island theory. After Nagasaki, the council met again, and the vote on whether to surrender was a tie. The tie was broken for the first time ever by the emporer, who opted for surrender.

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The Teaching Company has a course on World War II in which the professor talks about the bomb and Japan. According to Japanese records made public long after the war, Hirohito's war council met after Hiroshima on the question of surrender. The vote was unanimous not to surrender. So much for the demonstration-on-an-uninhabited-island theory. After Nagasaki, the council met again, and the vote on whether to surrender was a tie. The tie was broken for the first time ever by the emperor, who opted for surrender.

That course on WWII, by the way, is outstanding. It is taught by Prof. Thomas Childers, and is described here: http://www.thegreatcourses.com/courses/world-war-ii-a-military-and-social-history.html. I've listened to it a couple of times. Major public libraries often carry these courses, which are a bit pricey to purchase, in their audio section. If you are interested in purchasing, wait until it goes on sale, which happens frequently throughout the year.

(Note: The Teaching Company changed its name to "The Great Courses" recently.)

While I'm at it, let me mention that their course on World War I is also outstanding.

R

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My knowledge of WW2 before, during and after is thorough.

Everyone here has been very patient with me and I thank you. It was not my intention to be dishonest but an idea was being formulated at the time I was posting it.

I did not want to engage in a conflict over the past. I think it is because my view was philosophical and not necessarily factual.

The argument around Pearl Harbor, WW2 and the bombing of Hiroshima is an Americocentric view of history and it is very important to us.

But in the scheme of things, America has not always been here and the idea that it will last forever is absurd.

The significance of the bomb is much greater and it was my intention that we look at this..

America is not forever but in terms of scientific principles, the bomb is.. It is our nemesis

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So you think the bomb is more a threat to us that global warming?

C

We can survive global warming, although the cost will be high, it is doubtful if mankind can survive the bomb.

There is an interesting speculation amongst some searchers for extraterrestrial intelligence that any intelligent species that gets to the point where they have the capacity for space travel will at the same time discover nuclear fission and will inevitably wipe themselves out, which is why we never find any signs of them.

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So you think the bomb is more a threat to us that global warming?

C

Well it is right up there with global warming and although climactic changes can occur without humans we had a significant hand in this one. Plants stored carbon and released oxygen for a billion years and we reversed it in 150..

Actually when it comes right down to it, population is really the problem. Perhaps they should be more tolerant towards gay people?

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I agree that the heart of our problem is too many people using too few natural resources. I don't know how to solve that problem. Maybe a nuclear bomb will do it for us.

C

What is fearful is that they're people who think that way.. Cole, I'd like to think that you're not one.

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I remember a discussion with friends a few years back where the argument included population pressure and finite natural recourses. I voiced the opinion that what the planet needed was a plague. I was thinking of the Black Death in the 14C which severely cut population and (I use a broad brush here) led to the end of serfdom in Western Europe and the rise of the market economy.

I did wonder if the recent outbreak of Ebola would escape W Africa and would prove me right.

Of course a significant reduction in population would not of itself end war. There are always those who want command over others. Indeed the risk of war might increase as the fanatics claim the plague as a visitation from their gods and seek to damn/extirpate all unbelievers.

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It was interesting how theatrical the Ebola scare was and once it was confined how little anyone cared about it.

Cole Asked about global warming and it is true that we are at a breaking point on many levels all at once. To use a current figure of speech, "A perfect storm" but it has all been brought about by a large and demanding population.

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For a tech head like me there was another important anniversary last month - the first ever atomic bomb was detonated on 16 July 1945 - so this year is the 70th anniversary - 'The Gadget' was a copy of the 'Fat Man' implosion bomb later dropped on Nagasaki (the first bomb 'Little Boy' dropped on Hiroshima was a much simpler gun type fission bomb that was pretty much guaranteed to work - fire two large sub-critical lumps of uranium together hard and they will go bang!). The Trinity test site is now part of the White Sands Missile Range (WSMR) in New Mexico - see Wikipedia's excellent Trinity Test article and stacks more online - Trinity site open day experiences are even on Trip Advisor!

If you want a very readable and truly fascinating scientific, technical and even philosophical history of the birth of nuclear weapons then you need to find a copy of Richard Rhodes magnum opus "The Making of the Atomic Bomb" - unsurprisingly he won the Pulitzer Prize:

"Praised both by historians and former Los Alamos weapon scientists, the book is considered a general authority on early nuclear weapons history, as well as the development of modern physics in general, during the first half of the 20th century. Nobel Laureate I. I. Rabi, one of the prime participants in the dawn of the atomic age, called it "an epic worthy of Milton. Nowhere else have I seen the whole story put down with such elegance and gusto and in such revealing detail and simple language which carries the reader through wonderful and profound scientific discoveries and their application."

Personally I think dropping the bombs on Japan was the right thing to do. Millions of lives were probably saved. I agree with many of historical reasons cited above, particularly the likely enormous casualty rate on both sides after the ghastly fighting to take Okinawa - but a personal reason will suffice. Frankly I'm lucky to be here - my father was sunk twice by the Japanese just before the fall of Singapore - the second time he fortunately decided to swim for the shore as his ship foundered, had he been picked out of the water by the IJN he would have been handed over to the IJA forces being landed on the east coast of Malaya - those ratings who were "rescued" by the IJN were shot (murdered) a few days later when retreating British forces ambushed the overconfident Japanese and inflicted serious casualties on them. The Japanese army response was to machine gun all their POW later that day, including the naval ratings "rescued" from my father's ship. Brainwashed or not the Japanese were a callous, unforgiving enemy and if I had been an Allied serviceman training for the invasion of the Japanese Home Islands I would have lauded Harry Truman and the thousands of people who brought the Manhattan Project to fruition in the very nick of time.

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