Saturday, August 06, 2005

The Myths and Truths of Hiroshima

The authors of "American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer," drop some nukes of their own on the myths surrounding Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings.

(Image Attribution
Patrick Chappatte, This image may not be reprinted in Europe.)

SIXTY YEARS ago tomorrow, an atomic bomb was dropped without warning on the center of the Japanese city of Hiroshima. One hundred and forty thousand people were killed, more than 95% of them women and children and other noncombatants. At least half of the victims died of radiation poisoning over the next few months. Three days after Hiroshima was obliterated, the city of Nagasaki suffered a similar fate.

The magnitude of death was enormous, but on Aug. 14, 1945 — just five days after the Nagasaki bombing — Radio Tokyo announced that the Japanese emperor had accepted the U.S. terms for surrender. To many Americans at the time, and still for many today, it seemed clear that the bomb had ended the war, even "saving" a million lives that might have been lost if the U.S. had been required to invade mainland Japan.

Myth 1: The bombings saved a million lives that might have been lost on invading Japan?

Truth 1: Excerpt:
McGeorge Bundy, the man who first popularized this figure, later confessed that he had pulled it out of thin air in order to justify the bombings in a 1947 Harper's magazine essay he had ghostwritten for Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson.

Myth 2: The bombings broke the resistance of the Japanese leaders and led to immediate surrender?

Truth 2: Excerpt:
As Tsuyoshi Hasegawa has shown definitively in his new book, "Racing the Enemy" — and many other historians have long argued — it was the Soviet Union's entry into the Pacific war on Aug. 8, two days after the Hiroshima bombing, that provided the final "shock" that led to Japan's capitulation.

Myth 3: Leaflets were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki before the nuclear
bombings warning people to leave the cities.

Truth 3: Excerpt:
The fact is that atomic bomb warning leaflets were dropped on Japanese cities, but only after Hiroshima and Nagasaki had been destroyed.

Picture Caption: A Japanese girl prays after releasing a paper lantern on the Motoyasu river to comfort the souls of atomic bomb victims in Hiroshima, western Japan August 6, 2005. Tens of thousands of people from around the world gathered in Hiroshima on Saturday to renew calls for the abolition of nuclear arms on the 60th anniversary of the atomic bombing of the city. Seen in the background is the gutted A-bomb dome. REUTERS/Yuriko Nakao

Truth 4: Excerpt:
The bomb was dropped, as J. Robert Oppenheimer, scientific director of the Manhattan Project, said in November 1945, on "an essentially defeated enemy." President Truman and his closest advisor, Secretary of State James Byrnes, quite plainly used it primarily to prevent the Soviets from sharing in the occupation of Japan. And they used it on Aug. 6 even though they had agreed among themselves as they returned home from the Potsdam Conference on Aug. 3 that the Japanese were looking for peace.

Now these facts don't make the nominally Democratic Harry S Truman look too compassionate, and 'slanders' the "patriotically correct" (as the authors put it) Smithsonian exhibit of 1995, but they appear to be the truth.

The myths of Hiroshima

More info here.


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