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August 15, 2011

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"the bombing is too unambiguously evil." I'm not sure that I agree with that statement. Nagasaki was ambiguously evil, inasmuch as there is a good chance that Japan would have surrendered, and Nagasaki therefore unnecessary, if we had waited longer. But Hiroshima was necessary. Estimated casualties for the Allies in the event of an invasion ranged from one hundred thousand to a million. Japanese casualties would have matched or exceeded that, given the willingness of both soldiers and civilians alike to either fight to the death or commit suicide; in Saipan alone, 22,000 Japanese civilians committed suicide in light of the allied invasion there. Truman's job was to win the win as quickly as possible with as few American casualties as possible, making use of the atomic bomb necessary. I don't have similar feelings about the mass conventional firebombings of Germany and Japan; those are different stories. On netflix, be sure to get Errol Morris's documentary The Fog of War, a lengthy interview with Robert McNamara. Along with Vietnam, McNamara also discusses American bombing campaigns in World War II.

Chris, you might consider trying your hand at the novel that Greg Mitchell is looking for!

P.S. Thanks for sharing this. I'd really like to see Fog of War.

I grew up in a town full of scientists and engineers working on atomic energy projects in Idaho. Some of these people had worked on the Manhattan Project (code name for the atomic bomb). I never heard any guilt about Hiroshima from them. Most would quickly point out that we were in a race with the Germans to create the bomb and it was unthinkable for them to have it. And they usually trotted out the 'We would have lost a million men invading Japan' line, too. I think the sad fact is that once a weapon is designed, it will be built and once built it will be used.

We could have exploded those bombs somewhere else with fewer casualties, but I think we really hated the Japanese and wanted to hurt them as much as they had hurt us. It is unrealistic to expect anything else.

Sigh...


"I think we really hated the Japanese and wanted to hurt them as much as they had hurt us."

That sounds very true, and a sentiment that people seem to rarely own -- it gets clouded up in pseudo-scientific rationalizations. I'd be curious, Russell, what books or articles you feel like most accurately evoke the mood of the town you grew up in.

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