The Soul of the Destroying Nation

By Nora Gallagher Today we commemorate the day the atom bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. I grew up in New … Continued

By Nora Gallagher

Today we commemorate the day the atom bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. I grew up in New Mexico, a short distance from Los Alamos, where Robert Oppenheimer and his team built what they called “the gadget.” Guard towers were still in place, and the city had an aura of secrecy, isolation and guilt. As kids, we used to call it “Lost” Alamos.

This year, I published a novel about Los Alamos and the building of the atomic bomb.

While I was writing the novel, I came across a phrase from theology: the scandal of the particular. The idea is that God, this enormous creative force that “hung the stars” and created “that great leviathan just for the sport of it” would care about one of us. That the God of Creation–Aristotle’s Prime Mover or Plato’s Divine Source– would stoop to join us in the mundane details of every day human life, would care even if a single sparrow fell to the ground. This “Yahweh” was completely low-brow to the Greeks, a scandal: from Greek skandalon ‘snare, stumbling block.’

And yet, it is a beautiful scandal, isn’t it? That God would care about one singular, particular life. Where would we be, how would we understand our human story, without it? “The first chapter of Genesis moves gradually from a picture of the skies and earth down to the first man and woman,” writes Rabbi Richard Friedman. “The story’s focus will continue to narrow: from the universe to the earth to humankind to specific lands and peoples to a single family.” One family: Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel.

Writers, too, practice this scandal. Ryszard Kapuscinski, who died this year, said that journalism is “the art of noticing” and the art of noticing, the art of story-telling, is all about the human particular.

When the idea for the novel came to me, I started researching the time, filling in the things I didn’t know. I found out all these surprising and wonderful things about Los Alamos-particulars: when the city ran out of water one hot summer they brushed their teeth with Coco-Cola. Robert Oppenheimer made punch with 200-proof lab alcohol. He named the place in southern New Mexico where the first experimental bomb was tested, in July of 1945, Trinity site. Where the heat from the blast was so extreme that it melted the sand to green glass.

My characters, Eleanor and Leo, fall in love. They are in their own human particular, that world created by lovers that is full of life and possibility. But a wave of history overshadows them at every turn. As I witnessed their increasing desperation, I saw more about why the human particular is so scandalous. It is because I cared about what happened to them, these two, she with her dark hair and paint on her fingers and he with his loathing of the desert and love of cities and cigars. Humanity is made up of one person at a time: one person who loves the color aureolin and another who desires scrambled eggs with matzo. Singular. Irreplaceable.

And so, to Hiroshima. Hiroshima had a population of 400,000. On Aug. 6, 1945, 100,000 were killed. By the end of 1945, 140,000 were dead. The five year death toll was 200,000. The death rate was 54%, compared to fire bombing, which was ten percent. Civilian deaths to military: 6-1. These numbers, of course, stun our minds but do not penetrate our hearts. Another way to look at Hiroshima is by visiting the two museums: The museum in Los Alamos is dedicated to the technological: models of the two bombs that fell on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, photos of the labs. Very distant, detached. The museum at Hiroshima is another matter. There you will find, among the photos of destruction, the stories of those who managed to survive. Each one a human particular. Here is one, from a woman Shin Bok-Su, a Korean married to a Japanese man, age 28 at the time:

“My grandmother was going into the living room to wash the dishes. I had pulled the hose out of the bath and was using it to change the goldfish water in the yard. First there was a flash, then an ear-splitting roar. Instantly, everything was dark: I could see nothing. I heard voices calling, ‘Help me! Help me!’ Terrified and dumbfounded, I stood on shaking legs in the pitch black. It grew a bit lighter. Where had my house gone? The neighbors’ houses too were smashed. Everywhere I looked was a plain of rubble. I hid my mother and second son in a field of millet growing in the corner of the grounds of Hiroshima City Commercial High School and hurried back to the house. I began to pull the roof tiles off the fallen house one by one to get to my two children caught underneath. I screamed their names as if I had gone mad. Rain as black as oil fell from the sky.

“Early on the morning of the 7th, our house caught on fire. I desperately shrieked ‘Takeo! Akiyo!’ The fire ignited a mosquito net that was near where I expected the two children to be. Then I saw Takeo’s corpse burning. The three buttons on his school uniform remained properly aligned as he burned.”

One hundred and fifty scientists who worked on the project signed petitions that summer to President Truman to try to stop him from dropping the bomb on Hiroshima. They called atomic bombs “a means for the ruthless annihilation of cities ” and continued, “Our use of atomic bombs in this war would carry the world a long way further on this path of ruthlessness.”

Several days after the bomb was dropped, reporters asked Gandhi what he thought. He said the atom bomb “resulted for the time being in destroying the soul of Japan. What has happened to the soul of the destroying nation is yet too early to see.” That question is what I have been turning over in my mind since completing this novel.

What has happened to the soul of the destroying nation?

What happened to us as a nation on August 6, 1945? Did the use of a weapon designed to ruthlessly annihilate whole cities contribute to where we find ourselves today? How did Hiroshima erode our sense of morality, what we permit ourselves as a nation to do? How did it affect our fragile sense of what is permissible for one human being to do to another? Finally, what is the connection between Hiroshima and Guantanamo, Hiroshima and Abu Ghraib?

These questions are not easy to think about. The novel helps us to ponder them by illuminating the particular. The novel reminds us of what it is to be human. My lone, particular human voice speaks to your lone particular voice and that is what we have in the face of the enormity of these questions.

Nora Gallagher is author of the novel “Changing Light.”

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  • Paganplace

    It’s a complicated question, really. Compared to firebombing Tokyo… how did it affect America’s soul? Well… it certainly did. More than that, though, I consider the effects of what came after… The nuclear Sword of Damocles that we felt to have over our heads throughout the Cold War… I wonder sometimes if the apocalyptic bent religion seems to have taken on isn’t a legacy of so many of us actually having lived and grown up in full expectation that the ‘end of the world’ might come at any time… How did *that* affect our soul? Our psychology?

  • Norrie Hoyt

    Nora Gallagher, I haven’t read your novel yet and I don’t have answers to your questions. Do you have answers to your questions? If so, do the answers appear in your novel?All I have are more questions:Is what happened at Hiroshima qualitatively different from what happened in the firebombings of Tokyo and Dresden?Is what happened at Hiroshima qualitatively different from what happened in the story of Cain and Abel?Is what happened at Hiroshima qualitatively different from General Pershing’s burying dead Muslim insurgents in the Phillipines in pigskins to horrify and intimidate the living insurgents?Is what happened at Hiroshima qualitatively different from Lord Jeffrey Amherst’s giving smallpox-infested blankets to the Indians he’d been fighting as an ostensible gift of friendship?Is the meaning of what happened at Hiroshima any different from that of the last line of Dylan Thomas’s poem, “A Refusal To Mourn The Death, By Fire, Of A Child In London”? :”After the first death, there is no other.”

  • Jesus is God

    Jesus Christ is god manifest in the flesh.No one speaks of christ, because there all Jesus Christ haters.This site is for the ignorant and lame.

  • Rev. Brian A. Mahoney

    Faced with a choice between the use of atomic weapons and a costly invasion of the Japanese mainland, did President Truman really have a choice considering that between 1937 and 1945, the Japanese military murdered near 3,000,000 to over 10,000,000 people, most probably 6,000,000 Chinese, Indonesians, Koreans, Filipinos, and Indochinese, among others, including Western prisoners of war. In China alone, during 1937-45, approximately 3.9 million Chinese were killed, mostly civilians, as a direct result of the Japanese operations and 10.2 million during the course of the war.The most infamous incident during this period was the Nanking Massacre of 1937-38, when the Japanese Army massacred as many as 430,000 civilians and prisoners of war. Historian Mitsuyoshi Himeta claims that the “Three Alls Policy” sanctioned by Hirohito himself, was responsible for the deaths of “more than 2.7 million Chinese civilians.The decision must have been horrible for President Truman, but he made the right choice.

  • Arminius

    Ms Gallagher,A very interesting and thought provoking bit of writing. Thanks.Yes, we did let the evil genie out of the proverbial bottle. Ironically, it probably saved several million Japanese and American lives by making the invasion of Japan unnecessary. But that is beside the point; the question is, what did it do to us?Well, we have never used it since then, that must say something. But it did affect our culture profoundly. I know – I was there. I grew up in the 1950’s in Oak Ridge, Tennessee (USA), the ‘Atomic City’. This is where the enriched uranium used in the Hiroshima bomb was produced. At that time, it was a matter of great pride to us. But as time went on, and matters became more ‘interesting’, opinions began to change. I think the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, which was a very close call, began to wake people up, and voices of reason began to be heard. Of course the arms race continued, but both sides realized that it was suicidal to start such a war – MAD (mutually assured destruction). Treaties were signed. Eventually a scaling-down of the insane number of warheads happened. To sum up, then. We never used the Bomb again, and we probably, God willing, never will. Most of America during this time, and now, did not and does not want to use them. I think we have come to terms with it. But the scars still remain. There was a lot of fear during those years.

  • Terra Gazelle

    We always claimed we would not commit torture also..but we have a President and a populous that seems to think that in some cases torture is ok.So what got us into Iraq? What would it take for a nuke to be dropped by someone that felt the end justifies the means?We, as a some what bent Democracy have to take our brains out of our back pockets and shake the lint and dust out…and use them. terra

  • JAY

    Good article, thank you.I also grew up in New Mexico. I’ve visited “Lost Alamos” many times, including its museum that covers the history of the Manhattan Project.I’ve also stood at the Trinity Site several times and picked up the green fused-sand glass (trinitite) that was formed that morning in 1945 and wondered what it must have been like there at that moment.I don’t have any answers to the questions you and others pose. I doubt anyone does.

  • Arminius

    Terra,Well, I intentionally stopped my post before getting into the current situation. As to the torture – I was sickened at that, and I think much of America was too. The cries of protest were drowned out by the right wing shrieking. And yes, the current bunch of numbnuts in the administration have given veiled threats of nukes being used – ‘all options are on the table’. And we have a serious nutcase, Rep Tancredo (R, CO) who has publicly advocated nuking Mecca if there is another 9/11. And he is trying to run for president. Maybe hidden deep within my cynical thick hide there is an optimist struggling to get out – I cannot believe we would uncork that bottle again. If Al Qaida or other groups get hold of one, though, all bets are off. And that IS scary. Even Iran is too smart to do that.Jozevz:

  • Anonymous

    JA JOZ,Your thinking is a bit nutty, but does it explain why Palestinians also have to be punished for the sins of the Nazis? And who else is in line?Perhaps Osama uses such nutty logic to justify 911 — that civillians must be killed for some justification…BTW, Germany was defeated BEFORE the nuclear bombs were dropped. So nuking & killing 200,000+ civillians that wasn’t a means to stop the Holocaust. But making that an excuse is probably Nazi-like.People destroy & start wars for the craziest reasons…

  • Falantedios

    I grieve for the lives destroyed by Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I believe we should have a National Day of Mourning for those who’ve died at our hands. The Declaration of Independence says, “All men are created equal.” It doesn’t say, “all Americans are created equal and everybody else is expendable.”The only one wise enough to cope with these scars, this great evil, dispensed his wisdom to those who were willing to remain social outcasts under the yoke of tyranny in order to display his glory and wisdom. When they chose to throw off that yoke, to turn away from prayer and compassion, turning to the sword and violence, they began to bear the fruit of his prophecy in their lives.The only healing possible is to begin right now in our own homes and lives; return good for evil. Offer compassion and grace to the suffering. Apologize for the wounds caused by your ancestors. Turn from self-serving agendas to lives of sacrificial love.respectfully,

  • globo-mojo

    Is Obama wrong for declaring a “no-use” nuke policy? Doesn’t that “straighten out” the moral ambiguity of the cold war? Are we so lost that we still need to pretend to be crazy enough to use them? If a terrorist set off a nuke in new york city… who would we nuke in response? what would it accomplish? Even if we traced the materials to Iran, would we simply lay waste to entire cities? Would were perhaps seek to kill every single city-dwelling Iranian? That’s nonsense. Our response would be entirely conventional (in more ways than one, undoubtedly).

  • Concerned the Christian Now Liberated

    Rev. Brian A. Mahoney: You are so very, very correct!! And suicide bombings were invented by the Japanese. Can you imagine what these crazy Kamikazes would have done on land to invaders of the “homeland”!!!!!! On the other hand maybe we could have simply starved them into submission.

  • globo-mojo

    Re: Hiroshima. If I attack you with a knife, and you pull a gun in response, who is to blame for the discharge of the firearm?(Regarding the notion that Japan was already beaten…) You insist that I put my knife down, and yet I refuse.(Regarding the notion that unconditional surrender was an excessive demand…) I smile at the barrel, chuckle, and say “let’s talk, friend!” And yet I still have not put my knife down.The gun goes off every time.

  • Anonymous

    So is your novel asking what kind of god would allow His people to die in such a holocaust as Hiroshima?

  • Anonymous

    Globomo:Put down that weapon. Haven’t you heard?”If you talk to dictators -you can immediately get them on your side.”

  • Verse Infinitum

    It’s a very significant question as to what has happened to our nation’s soul? We must remember the typical natural behaviors of humans before Paganism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Shintoism, Taoism, etc. We also must remember the individual and societal transformation that occurred when any one of the great religions were established.

  • Islamist

    Why use the atomic bombs on Japanese cities and not German? The Germans killed millions more people than the Japanese during World War II. Why think that not bombing Kyoto (as the then Secretary of State thinks should not as it is the cultural heart of Japan) would lessen the impact of atomic-bombing civilians in Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Why draw God into this human decisions to go to war, to make and use atomic bombs? God tells us to make atomic bombs? Atomic bombs don’t kill, people do? What about the souls of the Japanese who died in the bombings?

  • PriveR

    This is just the kind of essay to post this question to.Is anyone else alarmed by the fact that the only president our current ‘decider’ has ever taken an interest in cracking a book and learning more about is also the only one who ever nuked another country?I was shocked by Tancredo’s ideas about wanting to nuke both Mecca and Medina. I think he’s actually serious. This man must NOT become president, or even dog catcher.We spend about 20 billion dollars a year just to maintain our own nukes. It takes only 6 to take out a country the size of Russia. We have 10,000 or more. We’re also the only ones who’ve ever used them. Can somebody please explain to me how that makes us any better than those out there, whose numbers seem to be growing, who want to blow US to kingdom come?It’s hard to remain an optimist in the face of the type of world we’re living in today. I just hope people wake up and realize we’re all in this together. No matter what you believe.

  • Islamist

    Priver – “I was shocked by Tancredo’s ideas about wanting to nuke both Mecca and Medina. I think he’s actually serious. This man must NOT become president, or even dog catcher.”No, Tancredo is not the first chap to want or suggest to nuke Mecca and Medina. Saudi Arabia has declared war on its ally the United States? Nuking Mecca and Medina, the spiritual heart of Islam, is nuking the whole Muslim world’s soul. That is what some want, mostly Christian supremacists and atheists who want to obliterate all religions and beliefs. Cheers

  • Ja Joz On: Osama Bin Laden Is dead

    OSAMA BIN LADEN IS DEAD! Osama Bin Laden & his Aladins Lamp is dead! In Early June He died of a Heroin/Opium overdose & kidney Problems! Ask “AL JAZEERA” news folk , friends of Al Qaeda, if you do not believe Me!Note: Bin Ladens SON who is Marying an Old British Harlot is just a distraction to this fact, so arrest them both. And His Niece in living in America is suddenly Gone, and cannot be found anywhere, because she is in mourning for her famous uncle Bin the king of SIN!Hip Hip Horray! CHEERS!O S A M A B I N L A D E N I S D E A D!

  • Paganplace

    ” Islamist:Why use the atomic bombs on Japanese cities and not German?”Cause… the Germans were beaten by the time the bombs were available, and without such extreme measures?

  • Paganplace

    Whoa, JJ… Is this breaking news, breaking rumor, or just something out of the rumormill in general?

  • Islamist

    PaganplaceThanks. I can’t remember or read history as much as a friend called J :). I’ve only been reading On Faith since “Muslims Speak Out”. I like your posts and those by other pagans/wiccans here, but Jacob Jozevz’s posts are something else. Do anyone actually read and understand his posts?Cheers

  • Faithless in US

    Permissibility is an odd framing. The trite comes to mind: it is easier to ask forgiveness, than permission. But forgiveness is really the key to moving forward. And despite the often fierce economic competitiveness of our two countries, I believe Japan and the US share an uncommon bond that I don’t think anyone could characterize as imperial, or conquerer/conquered, victor/vanquished, heroic/shamed. I might posit that lack of forgiveness is exactly what keeps China and Japan from moving forward. But I’m thoroughly ignorant of the particulars in either case and likely quite wrong…I don’t know that our sense of morality has been eroded by either Hiroshima or Guantanamo. If you accept the premise of war, you swallow the whole noodle. Sam Harris has done an extraordinary analysis of the particulars of torture, which I am too weak-minded to refute. But my intuition begs to differ, because cruel acts affect the actor, to his detriment, regardless if such actions are within his right.However, right and good are different animals when framed within the ethics of emergencies. And it is in the chaos rising out of that original emergency that we forget to ask why we are being cruel; it simply becomes habit. It is not for a dead and mutilated terrorist that I am sorry, but for the ruined psyche of the habituated mutilator who comes home no longer able to function as a human.Richard Feynman’s great regret about Los Alamos is that he didn’t recheck the premise for building the bomb after Germany had surrendered. Germany was working on its own bomb; now they were no longer a threat to American cities. But he was caught up in the process of making it work. As so often happens, emergencies put us on auto-pilot and we don’t actively think past our own survival.I don’t think that Hiroshima has desensitized us to make us any more cruel than we might otherwise be. World War II remains the benchmark of cruelty to which we’ve never risen since. Perhaps it is Hiroshima and Nagasaki that have squelched our worst impulses–because the true deterrent behind MAD was that everyone knew the consequences and to accept them again would be madness realized.But what we have now is, indeed, “a far cry from the world we thought we’d inherit” having survived the cold war. We are in a position, perhaps, of having adversaries who, upon accepting a warped faith, would delight in the consequences; adversaries to whom realizing the madness is the expression of god’s love.And to that, there are no particular answers; to that, nuclear stockpiles are no particular deterrent–and for that, I can find no particular way to forgive.—FIUS

  • Tim

    Let’s see … what did the USA do after winning WWII? Well, we rebuilt Europe and Japan. You know the Marshall Plan. Maybe we should have just taken our exclusive nuclear annihilation capability and bombed the hell out of Russia and the Middle East. Maybe we should have reduced the world to our domination under threat of a nuclear attack. We did not do this — so the soul of the nation was not damaged by the action we took to save lives and end the war. If anything it made us stronger. We did something very different. Because it was out of character for a victorious nation with the ultimate weapon; a weapon that was beyond anything ever imagined by Alexander the Great, Napoleon, The Spanish, or all those who had tried to rule the world in the past to stand down. To show restraint and to actually rebuild the enemy. To the victor would go the spoils and in this case with the exclusive rights to the nuclear bomb this would have meant total world domination, if our soul had been somehow damaged.So the whole premise of the author is wrong if you just look at our actions. The Greatest Generation shinned. They did what they had to do at the time yet they extended the hand of friendship when they held all the cards.What has changed America is the possibility of Nuclear Weapons in the hands of religious nuts. We had no choice but to develop these weapons and used them wisely. It has been generally agreed that their use actually saved lives on both sides. Just ask any person in the military fighting the Japanese and especially those who may have been involved in Iwo Jima. We did not change after developing or using these weapons. Yet now we have changed as we entered a new phase of nuclear terror; think Iraq. This change is not because of what we did during WWII but because of who may end up with bomb now. This woman is living in the past. The future is this: More changes will happen and need to happen because the world just can not afford to have a nuclear bomb go off in London, Paris, NYC, WDC or any other major city in the world. This is what has changed us and the world; it all has to do with who has the bomb not that the USA origianlly developed it and used it.

  • PriveR

    Islamist, you said:”No, Tancredo is not the first chap to want or suggest to nuke Mecca and Medina. Saudi Arabia has declared war on its ally the United States? Nuking Mecca and Medina, the spiritual heart of Islam, is nuking the whole Muslim world’s soul. That is what some want, mostly Christian supremacists and atheists who want to obliterate all religions and beliefs.”Tancredo may or may not be the first- but he is the only one that I’m aware of who made such a statement publicly who is attempting to run for president. The destruction of the sites would lead to a lot more Muslims ready to fight. There are a billion+ Muslims in the world, and right now only a few of them are giving the rest of the religion a bad image. I doubt those numhers would stay the same if their holy cities were wiped out.I haven’t heard about Saudi Arabia declaring war on us. If Mecca and Medina were nuked, that would probably change.Christian dominionists, I agree with you there. However I have yet to meet an atheist, even those who don’t find anything worthwhile in religion, who would ever advocate such an extreme action. Every atheist I’ve ever met thus far does hold life to be inherently valuable regardless of where they think it came from.Bottom line is we’ve all got to stop reacting in such a knee-jerk, vengeance oriented way. That only leads to more violence.

  • BKP

    World War II was the struggle of ultimate evil abominations. The Nazis, the Fascists, the Japanese Army, the Red Army, U.S. atomic bombs, British firebombs. I cannot even reconcile all the evil that occurred and was partially (hopefully) purged. I pray to God in wonder how any of my Grandparents’ generation survived with any sanity. Maybe that’s what made them so great. I am hopeful that America somewhat understands the need to grieve both for those we have harmed, and for the black mark on our nation’s soul. But I am less hopeful that as we realize this, we commit more atrocities in the world.

  • Robert

    It is chilling to read a post from someone who calls himself a Reverend (Rev. Brian A. Mahoney) justify killing innocent lives. A military man can make that argument and I could see his perspective, but for a Reverend or someone who clearly sees himself as a Christian to make that justification is just chilling.Lets debate if it was right or wrong, but lets also make sure to have our facts right. Japan did commit major atrocities during from the 1920’s to the 1940’s in China and elsewhere. But by the time the atomic bombs were ready to be deployed, Japan had already agreed to surrender. It was not Unconditional, but clearly they had conceded defeat and were nearing a breaking point.The key factors for nuking Japan were:1) To finish the war quickly before Stalin could set his sights on Japan. Stalin inteded to invade and retake islands Japan had ceased from the pre-Bolshevik Russia. Stalin infact declared war on Japan after Germany’s defeat.2) Truman felt that this weapon would project power to the rest of the world, in particular Russia, as it was becoming clear that post-World War would be followed by a Cold-War between the war-time allies.To me, the saddest part of all of this is not Hiroshima, but Nagasaki. After Hiroshima, Japan agreed to unconditional surrender. But it is claimed that the US did not accept this unconditional surrender (which was the request we had made prior to Hiroshima) and went ahead with the second atomic bomb in Nagasaki to confirm the results of the first.That to me is where I say that perhaps we did lose our souls from that day forward.

  • Robert

    I also have a comment for Concerned the Christian Now Liberated, you are an idiot. Suicide bombings were not invented by the Japanese.

  • Rob Shein

    Hmm…you know, after reading this, I know a lot more about your novel than I do about the notion that Hiroshima had anything to do with the soul of our nation. Reading a number of other posts, I can see that I’m not alone in that state. Heck, I don’t even quite grasp what your novel has to do with the purported topic listed in the title here, unless this is little more than a vehicle for self-promotion. Shame on you, spouting ethics and mourning everyone’s morality out of one side of the mouth while you plug your own book with the other.

  • Luke

    Let’s not forget that we supported Russia when they entered Berlin, and they raped plenty more women during their occupation of Berlin and everywhere else along the way. Don’t dare claim that America doesn’t have that blood on their hands. Our country still attacked Nagasaki after Japan’s unconditional surrender – and allowed the Red Army to effectively sack Berlin.

  • Luke

    Tim, you realize that we make money rebuilding nations after we destroy them, right? You think military contractors are in the poor house?

  • Patrick

    I can say that I have learned that nuclear proliferation destroys life and should be outlawed by modern society, from a Japanese gentlman named Josei Toda and Daisaku Ikeda, of the value-creation education society, now called the Soka Gakkai, whom lived during the aftermath of those two bombings, and taught the later of the two to feel the same. I feel the same as they do.The US killed innocent civilians in Japan without hesitation and the US continues to do so today. I do not think the US has learned anything positive from the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki Japan, although I think the Japanese people have learned some moral lessons, empathy for other’s suffering!

  • Asim

    Ms.Gallagher, Rev. Brian A. Mahoney,

  • Arminius

    Robert, you said:The key factors for nuking Japan were:1) To finish the war quickly before Stalin could set his sights on Japan. Stalin inteded to invade and retake islands Japan had ceased from the pre-Bolshevik Russia. Stalin infact declared war on Japan after Germany’s defeat.2) Truman felt that this weapon would project power to the rest of the world, in particular Russia, as it was becoming clear that post-World War would be followed by a Cold-War between the war-time allies.To me, the saddest part of all of this is not Hiroshima, but Nagasaki. After Hiroshima, Japan agreed to unconditional surrender. But it is claimed that the US did not accept this unconditional surrender (which was the request we had made prior to Hiroshima) and went ahead with the second atomic bomb in Nagasaki to confirm the results of the first.That to me is where I say that perhaps we did lose our souls from that day forward.My reply:On your #1 and #2, you are quite correct. I would add #3 to Truman’s reasons: to save American lives.As to the surrender – I know of no evidence that Japan had accepted unconditional surrender until Nagasaki. Do you have a source for that?And I still don’t think I lost our souls there. If we had simply blockaded Japan and let millions starve to death, would that really have been better?God, what a moral conundrum! I hope I am not opening yet another can of worms.

  • pc

    To the Rev. Brian Mahoney:You are exactly right. Truman did make the right choice. Asia would be a totally different country today if the Japanese aggression had not been stopped.To Nick Gill:What about a National Day to honor all the victims who died at the hand of the evil and torturous Japanese? The government of Japan refuses to apologize to this day for all the atrocities perpetrated on the people of Asia. Shinzo Abe believes that the history books should be changed to show the Japanese as liberators and not aggressors. Those who committed war crimes are not considered as criminals under Japanese domestic law. Remember, the Japanese modeled their military after the Nazi regime. To Robert:The Japanese did not consent to full surrender after the first bomb was dropped. They were incredulous that the US could have such power and doubted that a second bomb could exist. The Japanese were still planning to attack before the second bomb fell.

  • Sam

    You would have hoped that being the only country to ever use nuclear weapons would have added some humility and humanity to our foreign policy and future thoughts of the use of WMD’s. Apparently not. I was totally stunned by numerous presidential candidates who would actually consider using “tactical” nuclear weapons on Iran to end Iran’s civilian nuclear program. Interesting that we invade Iraq for their apparent seeking of nuclear weapons and keep everything on the table to stop Iran from attaining them yet we would consider using them on Iran to acheive our goals. Doesn’t this add justification for every country to have nuclear weapons?

  • Silence Dogood

    My wife, a Japanese lady who was Naturalized in June 2005, and I toured Hiroshima and the memorial two years ago.As we did, we considered how our fathers lives were saved because of the event. My dad, because he was poised as an invasionary force and her dad, who was not compelled to fight-to-the-death defending his homeland. Those spared lives produced children that have also produced children who may, and may not, attribute their lives – in part – to the event.I learned one thing during the tour and I am still processing the information. The memorial explains that US planners selected Hiroshima because there was no intelligence that US Airmen/Prisoners were being held in that City. That information struck me when processed against the images of a school that once stood along the river, across from the dome-topped landmark that is Hiroshima.Toland, and others, believe that more lives were spared because of the event. If true, the exponential expansion of successive generations increases the count of lives spared – on both sides.

  • Kurt

    Your ?: “What has happened to the soul of the destroying nation?”It has elected to commit suicide, waving its plastic made-in-China flag while committing genocide in Iraq,worshipping its false God–the one it advertises on the dollar bill.God, the real ones that the Greeks understood so well,has never given a damn about nations,especially one like ours founded on genocide and slavery,one like ours that is dedicated to perpetuating the samein the name of Leiberman.

  • sok7

    “The release of atomic energy has not created a new problem. It has merely made more urgent the necessity of solving an existing one.”

  • jimfilyaw

    i was barely a year old when the bomb was dropped. i’ve had a lifetime, including a war of my own, to consider the pros and cons of the decision harry truman made, and i must say that i find no fault at all in what he did. i am not one of those given to drawing the sword every time america wants its own way. that, i gladly leave to the neo-cons and the non-servers of the g.o.p. but, neither am i blithely oblivious of reality. the japan america faced was racist, imperialist, and as brutal as nazi germany. for those who doubt, i invite to consider the object lessons of nanking, bataan, and pearl harbor. that strain was not entirely cauterized by the necessary and justified administration of the bomb. just ask the korean women forced to serve as japan’s prostitutes (a fact which japan refuses to this day to acknowledge as a matter of national policy). for them, for the victims of bataan, nanking and pearl harbor, i will weep. for japan, i will not shed a tear.

  • aleks

    All good questions. Another is this: What would the conquest of Japan, an invasion that pitted US soldiers and marines against suicidal Imperial Army resistance with Japan’s entire population caught in between, have done to the American soul? No need to ask what it would have done to Japan’s soul, since there wouldn’t have been any Japan left when it was over.

  • Ken Smithmier

    You’re stretching a long way to connect things that have no connection. Hiroshima somehow damaging the soul of America, causing us to deteriorate as a society, somehow relating to decisions and events associated with Iraq?

  • mike

    I guess when you put ourselves in 1945, would it have been better to lose about 500,000 – 1,000,000 American soldiers, marines, and airmen? Not to mention the 100’s of thousand Japanese, probablt more then the A-Bomb it self. I think not. Japan started it, we just finished it with losing the least amount of life.

  • seattledodger

    i’m sure that bin ladin is quite encouraged by all the support his tactic of killing civilians has garnered here from conservative christians. they are, of course, his natural allies.hiroshima, nagasaki, the fire bombings of dresden and tokyo, 9/11, 7/7 all were direct attacks on innocent civilians for political purposes.truman, bin ladin, bush. the holy trinity.

  • John Donnelly

    I feel that our National soul has been warped not by the act of dropping the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but rather by 50+ years of hubris and, of late, largely unchallenged world domination! As a child of the post-war era, I can never hope to understand what the population of the US was feeling at that time. Clearly, the general population had no idea what the A-bomb really represented, and only knew the grief and fear of lost brothers, sons and fathers, and a desire for an end to the war. I believe that the development of the atomic bomb must have seemed a miraculous delivery from a seemingly endless war.The deaths of those poor civilians, while profound in their significance, were but a spark within a raging inferno… an orgy of death and destruction. As other posts here allude to, there is great divergence of opinion regarding the necessity of the use of the atomic bombs, but clearly, once the project began, the die was cast. That which is conceived will be built, and that which is built will be used.I, too, wonder at the significance of our post-war rebuilding efforts in both Europe and Japan, and say that it speaks to an essential goodness of that generation of Americans. I believe that they were truly magnanimous in victory! As to the intentions of the Nation’s leaders and the industrial interests, my 21st century jaded perspective on the corporate state suspects something far from idealistic at work.For myself, I could never justify the future use of such weapons. I know that there are those who feel that we have the right to “protect” ourselves at any cost, but I cannot convince myself of that. I cannot believe that an all-powerful God calls us to death and destruction, nor that such a Being could favor one aspect of It’s creation over another. That is childish in the extreme!!Perhaps the greatest net effect upon us as a nation is that, for many of us, we view ourselves as the “doers of Good”, the fortress of Democracy… somehow set above everyone else. Perhaps this is merely innate xenophobia, though I suspect there is much more to it. We have grown unable to differentiate the idealized view of ourselves from the real and flawed nation that we are.I fear for our future. I feel that the leadership of this once-great Nation no longer represents the average American… that they, in the thrall of large pan-national corporations, will follow the money rather that any true morality.

  • Mohamed MALLECK, Swift Current, Canada

    Nora, Laudable as your piece about ‘the soul of the destroying nation’ or about ‘ the scandal of the particular’ is, nukes are NOT any more romantic than William Blake’s “Tiger, Tiger, Did He That Created the Lamb Also Create Thee”.The very hard reality is that 200,000 had died after 5 years; the very hard reality about Gandhi (as Richard Attenborough told hoi polloi in his movie, but as had been lived in the flesh by South African human rights activists long before a struggling lawyer from Gujrat landed in Durban) is that he learnt his non-violence from Mr. Khan in South Africa where, the past week, it was revealed that Nobel Peace Prize-winning President F.W. De Klerk had been involved in the murder of two sisters in their sleep five days before he was awarded the coveted prize (and also, his son became an alcoholic and briefly converted to Islam).A hard-nosed solution would be to take the flame of denuclearization (starting with those who have the largest number of warheads, but including the upstarts on a pro rata basis) militancy forward some significant distance, the same way that Cindy Sheehan has carried the antiwar/pacifism flame and has now shifted to a higher gear and is seeking impeachment. For THAT, we underlings of the human fraternity would be grateful to you.I AM myself seriously considering making the effort to graduate from being an underling.

  • Matthew

    I guess we should have let the Germans or the Japanese build the bonb first, then we could have all been in concentration camps, I would hope that you would be first into the oven for writing this silly article.Or maybe we should have just sent all of those solders and marines to their death attacking the Japanese mainland!You make me sick!

  • Craig

    Nora,…I think you failed to lay out the chapter about the 2nd cousin of elenor in Dutch east indies who was overrun by japanese–and how she was forced to work as a sex slave for the japanese occupiers–along with all her friends who weren’t killed outright, seeing dozens of soldiers every day–eventually leading to her suicide…Or, the distant family of her maid in china who were bayonetted to death in Nanking by invading japanese troops—and how their 1 year old grand child was pararded around the city on a soldier’s bayonet that day….Or the Allied soldiers who were enslaved, tortured and killed—and how their tragic numbers TRULY pale in comparison to numbers of Asian innocents who suffered the wanton killing and rampant rape and abuse the Japanese Army instituted throughout their “Economic Prosperity Sphere”….And how the people of the Japanese homeland were training to oppose the invasion and to die in the effort to stop the “white devils” from coming into their homeland (fearing the types of behaviors they were well known for…)…for their emperorAnd how these weapons, repugnant as they are from the distance of 62 years–after the benefits of winning the war and the desperation of that time has so waned in our perspectives.., saved 100s and 1000s of Allied lives and stopped the killing of 1000s of innocents by a warrior caste intent on going down in flames and taking all they could with them…No—the bombs were a good thing.Enough of the knashing of teeth about how we saved american lives by using a weapon that our enemies would have used without hesitation, that our enemies actions and evil really cause to pale in comparison. The people who started and allowed that war of aggression were defeated, Totally.done.

  • Don Elmer

    Nora nailed it. It’s refreshing to have someone look directly at the specificity of our dropping the bombs on Hiroshima & Nagasaki without flinching. It is both horrifying & redemptive if we are willing to take it in. It could give us the possibility of turning around, or in other words, of turning our swords into plowshares. It takes equal amounts of courage to look directly at our absolute plundering of Hiroshima and Nagasaki & determining as a nation that we will now turn our swords into plowshares in memory of the 200,000 & more deaths, overwhelmingly civilian. That event did mark in a horrific way our end of innocence as a nation in the twentieth century, or more accurately the end of our denial of how we have done immense harm to others throughout our history. If we wish to be truly great, we need to embrace the fact of our dark side (our capacity for evil) as a nation. It holds the key to our

  • FWB

    What is the connection of the A-bomb to Pearl Harbor, the Bataan Death march, Cabanatuan and Camp O’Donnell? Where was the morality and heart of Japan in those places? Where were the German people during the Holocaust? These questions are easy to think about. Do you think that the Japanese emperor, Tojo, Hitler, Goering, Himmler, Goebbels et al would have used an A-bomb had they developed one in time? They used everything else at their disposal. I mourn for the civilians lost in Japan and Germany, but people need to think and act before they allow their governments to be hijacked by monsters.

  • Frank

    .I’ve thought a lot about why we hit civilians in Nagasaki and Hiroshima rather than making a couple of military bases disappear in Japan. I think it was primarily for the shock value, but my more cynical side tells me that we hit the cities just to find out how many people we could kill with an A-bomb. And, we also needed our revenge, which is why we are now saddled with the Guantanamo Bay debacle and the quagmires that are Iraq and Afghanistan.An angry and fearful population can be moved to commit many horrible and inhumane acts. George Bush, Dick Cheney, and their minions of evil have played each American like a violin. They exploited every fear and fueled our desire for vengeance. But, where are the children of Cheney and Bush? Not in Iraq or anywhere near it. No way, they are partying in South America or in Washington or in California while the rest of our sons and daughters die overseas so that Bush can look like a big man. Shared sacrifice? Ha! Cheney hasn’t missed too many meals, and Bush says he sleeps well every night. And, while dear ol’ King George extends the tours of duty for our soldiers, he hasn’t missed a single day of vacation..

  • Local Dude

    What a load of bullhonkey, Nora. We dropped a bomb b/c the Japanese attacked our nation and wouldn’t surrender. It’s all about technology and military force. God never existed except in the heads of the muddle-minded, likeyou.

  • Nick Lappos

    Ms. Gallagher unfortunately forgot the entire context of WWII, and treats the dropping of the bomb as an isolated event devoid of any reason, of any national need. She anguishes over that event as if the United States were not fighting for its very existence, as if the Japanese conquest, domination and rape of 1/4 of the earth’s population was not the cause of this event. She conveniently forgets that the war ended days after the bombs were dropped, because they were dropped, and that the suicide rate of Japanese civilians on the outlying islands proves that the deaths due to conventional conquest would be every bit as high or higher than those caused by the bombs. Her amnesia is stunning in its naivety.My questions are direct – how does an author who steps into the role of student of history fail to see the context of WWII as a contributor to the decision to use nuclear weapons to crush a blood-thirsty foe in a world war? Does she next plan to write about a limbless victim of the Japanese rape of Nanking, or is this essay (and the book she shamelessly hawks) her single shining achievement?

  • A. Lincoln

    The Japanese brought great death and destruction to it’s neighbors in the 1930’s and 1940’s. They were responsible for obscene acts of brutality against the Chinese and Korean civilian population. Hundreds of thousands of women were used as sex slaves, thousands were forced into cruel medical experimentation. The list goes on and on. Although, I am sorry for the suffering of those in Nagasaki and Hiroshima, the lession the Japanese should have learned is that because of this horrible war of their making they reaped what they had sown.

  • Tomas Stargardter

    Japan had lost its soul long before the bombs where dropped. What they did to China and the rest of Asia while at the hight of thier empire was something truly evil, equal to the atrocities of the Nazi regime.The atomic bombs came as a means to end a war that was not started by the Americans.In this case the Americans have nothing to be ashamed of. They did what it had to be done in order to crush a true evil empire.The U.S. can cant not wring its hands in guilt over an event that they did not start but did put a definitive end to.Japan has more blood on its hands and has never truly accepted its responsibility of its acts during the war. Let them worry about thier collective soul as a nation.

  • gary

    what would have happened if we had found out about the russian gulags before patton was killed? he sure would have looked like a prophet,stalin would have got the kremlin nuked in 1945. wahlah,no cold war.

  • Falantedios

    Dear Rob,While I appreciate your compliment, I must scold you a bit for silly writing.Did you really mean to type “We all create the reality we experience on this planet”?Something tells me that the children in Hiroshima and Nagasaki did not create the nuclear fireball that devastated their world.respectfully,

  • JoeOvercoat

    If human life is the issue, then why is the form of technology used to end it in question? Why is it implied that the American people accept Gitmo and, even more so, Abu Ghraib? Is the idea that the Bush Administration would act differently if it did not have Hiroshima to refer to? That seems tenuous.The clearer connection is between Hiroshima & Guernica, between Hiroshima & Okinawa, and between Hiroshima & Tokyo.

  • tom

    Nonsense. The atomic bomb was just another step on a continuum which went through Guernica, the London Blitz, Bomber Harris and our firebomb raids on Japan.

  • seattledodger

    somebody or other said: “Japan suffered terribly–BUT, I would say she caused 10 times that suffering to innocents around her by the aggressive actions of her warrior elite…”glad to get that cleared up. so it’s okay to kill innocent japanese women, children and old folks since their ‘warrior elites’ were so nasty and mean? same was true of those evil stock and bond traders on 9/11 i suppose? nice to know that we civilians are fair game for you christians. not that i ever doubted your capacity to kill; that’s never been in question, eh? but at least you’re more honest now and don’t claim any moral high ground or anything. you at last realize that you are no better than terrorists, right?good thing our military heros are such paragons of virtue. i’m glad i can be proud of our founders: washington, jefferson, etc. they were truly men of honor and christian virtue; if you don’t believe me, just ask their slaves.

  • Maxbyte

    Hindsight can be pretty good in some instances, but in this instance it is naive at best.I agree that the current U.S. administration is without a heart or soul. It’s also possible to argue that Nixon suffered from the same malady. I would argue, however, that Nixon gave far more to America than he took, in spite of Watergate. Unfortunately for Nixon, he had a personality that was virtually impossible to respect.When President Harry S. Truman ordered the first atomic weapon airmailed to Japan, the United States and the world had become war weary and drained. Hundreds of thousands of Americans had been killed in Europe and the Pacific, and there was no clear end in sight.Many scholars question the necessity and wisdom of the second atomic weapon, but Truman felt it necessary and none of us can put ourselves in his position at the time.Perhaps more importantly, the characterization that Americans “celebrate” the atomic weapon attacks on Japan is factually incorrect, a vile prevarication, and is morally reprehensible.This is a sick view of reality and contributes nothing to our understanding of world circumstances more than 60 years ago.

  • x2

    x2,This piece is so trite that its not even worth a reply.Nevertheless…It did not destroy our soul because I was born way after the event, so it really had no effect on me other than being a cautionary tale of war.The bombing did affect future presidents, since none have used it ever since despite ample opportunity, i.e. the Korean and Vietnam wars.In fact, the military really wanted to use it during the Korean war, but was overruled since the President thought it too horrific to use.Finally, Japan wouldn’t stop fighting until the bombs were used. We were losing 10,000+ troops every battle in the Pacific and would have lost a lot more trying to beat Japan during WWII with a conventional invasion.That’s 10,000+ troops a battle. Almost 3x what we lost in Irag and Afganistan so far in the entire “war on terror”. So if people are so anti-war now with our current casualities, it’s not surprising how they felt back then. So using the bomb to end the war quickly was the only option.

  • Jim Mallay

    Interesting hypothesis about how the war was ended and what our nation is doing today. There is absolutely no connection. I clearly remember Pearl Harbor, the war in the Pacific, and how it all ended. I have since read a great deal about the atrocities committed by the Japanese, especially in its treatment of our citizens who became POWs. Our hands are far from clean, of course, but living through the horrors of the war in the Pacific, justified (to nearly everyone at the time) anything we had to do to prevent the ongoing loss of life. Although we became paranoid about the rise of the Soviet Union, our nation was generally as humanitarian as any state ever was. The reconstruction of Europe and Japan are notably civilized. What the nation has been doing the last several years is undeniably dispicable. We continue to overreact about the threat of terrorism without trying to understand the cultures of others. We have sunk to new lows in the annals of “civilized” nations. It will take generations to make any decent recovery. But I maintain our deeds of today have any relationship to how we chose to end the war as quickly as possible. If we had chosed to make subsequent use of the atomic bomb, one might be able to draw a connection. Essentially none of our “leaders” today have any direct recollection of the war or of the weapon. They are acting entirely on their own, not as part of a culture that somehow arose because of Hiroshima. Our culture has come a long way since 1945–some very good, and some very twisted. But one could not have led to the other at this late date. Thanks.

  • Jim Mallay

    Interesting hypothesis about how the war was ended and what our nation is doing today. There is absolutely no connection. I clearly remember Pearl Harbor, the war in the Pacific, and how it all ended. I have since read a great deal about the atrocities committed by the Japanese, especially in its treatment of our citizens who became POWs. Our hands are far from clean, of course, but living through the horrors of the war in the Pacific, justified (to nearly everyone at the time) anything we had to do to prevent the ongoing loss of life. Although we became paranoid about the rise of the Soviet Union, our nation was generally as humanitarian as any state ever was. The reconstruction of Europe and Japan are notably civilized. What the nation has been doing the last several years is undeniably dispicable. We continue to overreact about the threat of terrorism without trying to understand the cultures of others. We have sunk to new lows in the annals of “civilized” nations. It will take generations to make any decent recovery. But I maintain our deeds of today have any relationship to how we chose to end the war as quickly as possible. If we had chosed to make subsequent use of the atomic bomb, one might be able to draw a connection. Essentially none of our “leaders” today have any direct recollection of the war or of the weapon. They are acting entirely on their own, not as part of a culture that somehow arose because of Hiroshima. Our culture has come a long way since 1945–some very good, and some very twisted. But one could not have led to the other at this late date. Thanks.

  • Rev. Gary Roth

    There are problems with Reverand Mahoney’s argument, as there are with the notion that the bombing of these cities saved lives, and that the bombings were a necessary evil. From the standpoint of Christian thought, the bombings were indefensible. There are two main streams of thought in Christianity regarding the waging of wars. One is pacifism,allowing for no retaliation. This is closest to the teachings of Jesus, who taught that we are not to return evil for evil, and are to “offer the otehr cheek.” Many Christians have felt, however, that the state can do what the individual Christian cannot in this regard, and have found in Paul some backing for this idea of the state “welding the sword.” Augustine put this into a theory to which the church has historically subscribed called the “Just War Theory.” Augustine meant this as not a permissonn-giving device for nations which wanted to go to war, but rather as a means of limiting justification for war. Among the criterion for a “Just War,” is that civilian populations cannot be targeted, which is what we did in both the fire-bombings and the dropping of atomic bombs on Japan.We can never say how many would or would not have been killed if we had not dropped the bombs. Perhaps they could have been dropped on something other than a city, if exploding a nuvlear device was truly necessary. There are a dozen different possible endings to any story, none of which can be determined until the story is actually played out. But there are always choices to be made. We chose an immoral one – one which caused the incineration of hundreds of thousands of people, and the tortuous death of many hundreds of thousands more.Another teaching of the church is that the end does not justify the means. Our dropping of weapons of mass destruction on civilian populations certainly has affected the soul of this nation – see how easily people talk of doing the same to others whom we call “enemies.”The French ethicist, Jacques Ellul, talks about “necessity” being the base of most of the evil that is done. When we say, “we had to do this,” “we had no choice,” we engage in two forms of deceit – first of all, because there are always choices, and second, because we refuse do take responsibility for our decisions. Rev. Mahoney is wrong because he gives up on the God who holds us morally culpable, and because he has given himself over to a philosophy of death, rather than one of hope.

  • Falantedios

    PC asks:Nick here:respectfully,

  • Michael

    I wonder if this morality tale of Hiroshima and Nagasaki has space for a broader discussion of the role of the bomb in ending a horrific war that claimed the lives of perhaps 80 million souls, and removing a bloodthirsty dictatorship from Japan.I am sure it does not, since the author’s discussion treats the humanness of the soldier as less than that of the civilian (as in civilian to military deaths were 6 to 1). How striking this approach, as it cannot account for the difference between an 18 Iowa draftee spared a battlefield death, and a Japanese government official killed in Hiroshima.War is indeed bad — I have fought in two in the past 20 years — but the dead from bombs and bayonets look remarkably the same. The sad dissipation of the spirit from what is inevitably a young man (or hapless civilian) is what matters. What makes the two experiences – bomb and bayonet – different is the capacity for so many comfortably situated authors to see themselves in Hiroshima, but never, ever, ever in a infantry unit in the attack.I think I’ll just re-read Paul Fussell’s essay, “Thank God for the Atom Bomb.” Then perhaps top that off with a reading of Japan’s Constitution permitting universal suffrage and a bill of rights.

  • Brian Sullivan

    Spritually, and on face value, dropping the bomb was an evil act. Yet Truman was faced with the prospect of continuing the war against a foe that refused to surrender. Invading the Japanese homeland would have produced far greater casualties, on both sides, than the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Which is more evil? Dropping a city destroying bomb and limiting casualties or causing the deaths of many more by continuing conventional war?

  • Devesh

    A very poignant and thought provoking piece. Of course, the pathos of a monumental tragedy lies always in the individual threads of the brocade.

  • D.R. Nelson

    Detonation of the 1st and 2d atomic weapons over Hiroshima and Nagasaki respectively were the tragic consequences of the brutal calculus of war without mercy.Nevertheless having the decision to deploy them dropped in his lap after Roosevelt’s death, Pres. Truman included in his thinking their potential impact on Emperor Hirohito’s Privy Council’s debate over whether to sue for Peace. The War Faction led by the Emperor’s military tried to convince him to carry on the struggle even after the Bombs had been dropped. Hirohito having become convinced the Allies would incinerate the country through one means or another had the war continued, however inclined towards the Peace Faction led by his Foreign Minister thus ending perhaps the most brutal conflict of the last century.Though anguishing to say the deaths of a quarter million at Hiroshima and Nagasaki were an essential factor in hastening the War in the Pacific’s end in 1945 rather than in 1948 or even 1950 after millions more Japanese and Allied civilians and soldiers had perished.It should also not be overlooked that Japan though far behind Germany; even further behind Los Alamos was also exploring the challenges of building a nuclear device. Had they managed to construct it; even a rather crude one at that, think of the consequences if such an instrument had been brought by submarine into San Francisco Bay and what we would have done to Japan as a consequence.>DRNelson

  • JoeOvercoat

    My understanding is that the Japanese Government denied the request to surrender after Hiroshima, and even went so far as to tell its people that it was simply a new kind of phosphorous bombs (versus the phosphorous bombs widely used at the time to create firestorms in cities). My understanding that it was not until the Japanese Emperor intervened after Nagasaki, and spoke directly to the people (for the first time), that Japan accepted the existence of this devastating weapon. Q: Japan’s military leadership appeared ready to fight to the death of every last man, woman, and child in the State – unless you turn the other cheek, and accept the consequences (death, and worse, for you and many others), how do you fight that? A: With nuclear weapons, and the resolve to use them, and the willingness to accept capitulation, and to stop using them.

  • Devesh

    A very poignant and thought provoking piece. Of course, the pathos of a monumental tragedy lies always in the individual threads of the brocade.

  • Rev. Brian A. Mahoney

    In my previous post, I wrote, “The decision must have been horrible for President Truman, but he made the right choice.”In response to my post, Anonymous wrote, “I’m sure the dead kids that were burned would be interested in your justifications for their deaths.”Robert wrote, “It is chilling to read a post from someone who calls himself a Reverend (Rev. Brian A. Mahoney) justify killing innocent lives. A military man can make that argument and I could see his perspective, but for a Reverend or someone who clearly sees himself as a Christian to make that justification is just chilling.” Further, “…lets also make sure to have our facts right…. by the time the atomic bombs were ready to be deployed, Japan had already agreed to surrender. It was not Unconditional, but clearly they had conceded defeat and were nearing a breaking point. … To me, the saddest part of all of this is not Hiroshima, but Nagasaki. After Hiroshima, Japan agreed to unconditional surrender. But it is claimed that the US did not accept this unconditional surrender”It is important to note that Japanese military officials were opposed to any negotiations before the use of the atomic bomb. Civilian leadership could not negotiate surrender or even a cease-fire because Japan, as a constitutional monarchy, could only legally enter into a peace agreement with the unanimous support of the Japanese cabinet. In the summer of 1945, the Japanese Supreme War Council, consisting of representatives of the Army, the Navy and the civilian government, could not reach a consensus on how to proceed and a political stalemate developed between the military and civilian leaders. The military was increasingly determined to fight despite all costs and odds. Further, either the Army or the Navy could veto any decision by having its Minister resign. After the bombing, the situation changed significantly. Kōichi Kido, one of Emperor Hirohito’s closest advisers, stated: “We of the peace party were assisted by the atomic bomb in our endeavor to end the war.” Hisatsune Sakomizu, the chief Cabinet secretary in 1945, called the bombing “a golden opportunity given by heaven for Japan to end the war.”Moreover, Japanese troops had committed atrocities against millions of civilians, by means including the sanko sakusen (“scorched earth”) policies, the infamous Nanking Massacre and the use of chemical and bacteriological weapons. Further, an order given by the Japanese War Ministry on August 1, 1944, ordering the disposal and execution of all Allied POWs, numbering over 100,000, if an invasion of the Japanese mainland took place. The early end to the war prevented further bloodshed.Millions of Asian civilians died of famine under Japanese rule. For example, a UN report states that four million people died in the Dutch East Indies as a result of famine and forced labor during the Japanese occupation, including 30,000 European civilian internee deaths. These war crimes were ongoing, and use of the atomic bombs brought them to an abrupt end.Philippine justice Delfin Jaranillla, member of the Tokyo tribunal, wrote in his judgement:Also, keep in mind what we learned in the war against Germany. By waging conventional warfare, we laid waste to the land, the industry and the method of life of the German people. Waging conventional war against the Japanese until they surrendered would have meant the inevitable and complete destruction of the Japanese armed forces and just as inevitably the utter devastation of the Japanese homeland. So, I repeat, the decision must have been horrible for President Truman, but he made the right choice.

  • chris

    Always trying to link the problems of today to behaviors of yesterday, and portray today’s problems as the worst that ever existed. The fact is, even in WWII, the USA fought a more civilized war — considering the stakes — than most wars throughout human history…treating prisoners with respect, care and kindness for the most part (rather than killing or enslaving them, the norm throughout most of history); striving to limit fighting and killing only to military personnel or civilians or locations directly employed in the enemy war effort (hiroshima, nagasaki). Linking hiroshima to Guantanamo (which for terrorists is nothing more than a high-security prison with interrogation, or Abu Graib betrays her politics and this constant drumbeat by the left to blame America for everything in the world. You may as well try to link the abuses of Vietnam to Korea or WWII, and the abuses of WWII to WWI or the Civil War, or the abuses of the Civil War to the Indian Wars, and so on ad nauseum. The fact is, war brings out the best and worst in human beings. Some people find a moral compass, some people live according to theirs, some people throw their moral compass away, and still others find opportunity in the chaos of wartime environments to demonstrate they have no moral compass at all. None of that has anything to do with previous wars or what we as a nation found ourselves prepared to do in a specific conflict. The rules of engagement and the training of American soldiers in this war is far more rigorous and civilian-friendly than in Vietnam, WWII or any other war. Stop indulging in your guilt and projecting it upon the nation, which has every right to survive in any situation it finds itself in, some of which are of its own making, some of which are not, and most of which are a mixture of the two.

  • Raymond Takashi Swenson

    Let me offer my perspective as a native of Japan whose mother experienced the fire bombing of Nagoya, and who served in the US Air Force in Japan, at NORAD and at Strategic Air Command.The point has been made by other commenters that the allied bombing campaign in Europe had set a precedent for mass killing of civilians by aerial bombardment with the fire bombing of Dresden. The combination of the development of the B-29 (built in Omaha, where Strategic Air Command was based) and the capture of the Marianas Islands placed major Japanese cities within range of mass bomber raids. By August 1, 1945, almost all of the major cities of Japan had been decimated by fire bombs dropped from hundreds of planes flying in formation. IN Nagoya, my mother’s family jumped over flaming napalm as they escaped to a nearby park, where they watched their city burn. They escaped starvation by traveling by train and on foot to my grandmother’s ancestral silk farm in the mountains of Takayama. The efficiency of the Air Force in destroying cities contributed to a crisis. They were running out of major targets that were big enough to be worth using an atomic bomb against. The Soviet Union was transporting troops to Siberia by train and was poised to fulfill its pledge to declare war on Japan on August 9, after the two old enemies from the 1905 Russo-Japanese War had stayed neutral throughout the conflict with Hitler. The equivalent of billions of today’s dollars had been spent on creating the two kinds of atomic bombs, employing not only the hundreds of scientists at Los Alamos, but also thousands of industrial plant workers gathering enriched uranium at Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and thousands of others building and operating nuclear reactors on the Columbia River near Hanford, Washington, and the plants that extracted the small amounts of plutonium from the “cooked” uranium fuel rods. The plutonium process had the potential for creating far more weaponable material, but it was difficult to make it implode into a chain reaction. The trigger design was what the Rosenbergs stole for Stalin, and despite the success at Trinity and Nagasaki, several of the next test explosions were duds. The massive investment in the Manhattan Project needed to show a dividend, or it would be condemned after the war as a boondoggle. Truman had become vice president based on the reputation he earned in the Senate for exposing war profiteering, and he probably did not relish the complaints if he did not get a bang for the many bucks that had been spent at Los Alamos, Oak Ridge and Hanford. It had to be used before the war ended.Some of Truman’s advisors were intent on using the bombs to put some fear into Stalin. They also wanted to avoid giving the Soviets an occupied territory in Japan as they were already getting in Germany. An invasion of Japan would certainly have been costly to America. Japan still had reserves of munitions that US planes had never reached, buried in caves and transported by 20 mile long tunnels to Yokosuka Naval Base. Actually occupying a land where people were willing to die in the process of killing Americans is a difficult proposition (as we can see in Iraq). Many in Japan were fanatical in their belief that their nation would be protected just as it had been against the two Mongol invasion fleets. Even after the two nuclear attacks, when the emperor recorded a surrender message, a last minute attempt was made by fanatics to destroy the recording and take the emperor hostage, that was disrupted by an overflight of B-29s en route to Akita for a mass air raid, and by the eventual response of the mass of the Japanese Army supporting the emperor. In the end, the nuclear bombs becoming available just before the Soviet declaration of war, the uncertainty about surrender, the need to make use of such an expensive weapon, the precedent of many incendiary attacks on cities, and the risks of an invasion, made it obvious that all of the factors weighed in favor of using the nuclear bombs. If Truman held back, and launched an invasion that killed tens of thousands of Americans, and it was later learned that he did not use every means at his disposal, he would have been crucified by the press and the Republican Party. The ultimate success of the D-Day assault in Europe gives us too much confidence that an amphibious invasion against Japan would have worked. D-Day was actually very chancy. And unlike landing in Normandy, attacking Japan meant setting out across hundreds of miles of ocean. While the US could have eventually worn down Japan, and starved it out, it could have taken another year and hundreds of thousands more American lives. An attack by the Red Army in northern Japan could have been more successful, coming the short distance from Siberia, and it was possible that Japan could have become, in toto, a Soviet satellite state, meaning Korea would have been also. It is possible that Japan could have surrendered without the nuclear bombs being dropped. However, there was nothing at the time that told Truman it was worth taking that gamble, rather than throwing every weapon he had into beating down Japan before an invasion became necessary. The moral line of killing a hundred thousand civilians at one stroke had already been crossed with the incendiary attacks. The cost to Americans of a nuclear bomb that would have about the same effect as incendiaries at far less cost in men and planes made it seem like the obvious choice. We now know that both Germany and Japan had nuclear weapon programs. After all, much of the seminal work had been done in Germany. If D-Day had failed, the Nazis may well have been able to develop a bomb and use it against London or Moscow by 1946 of 1947. Basically, because the bombs were available before Japan surrendered, it was almost inevitable that they would be used. Until Americans entered the two cities and reported the devastation, I doubt that Truman understood the full impact. The fact that he was unwilling to use nuclear weapons even when the communists were on the verge of winning Korea says to me that he had a better understanding of nuclear weapons in 1950 than he did in 1945. In my five years living in Japan as an adult, I did not encounter any Japanese person of an age to remember World War II who seemed to blame America for the devastation wrought by the war. My own grandfather, a veteran of the Japanese Army and proprietor of a camera repair shop, on hearing the announcement of the attack on Pearl Harbor, told my mother that America, now aroused, would defeat Japan. Most Japanese understand that America’s actions were in response to Japan’s imperial conquest of its neighbors as it murdered and raped its way across Asia. They believe that Japan reaped the whirlwind. They had seen America less as an enemy than as a competitor. Only at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, with the encouragement of various factions in America and other nations, have the Japanese been encouraged to disregard all the horrendous brutality of the war they started, and instead see themselves as victims and America as somehow uniquely culpable for taking an action that the Imperial Navy would not have hesitated to take if it had possessed a nuclear bomb on December 7, 1941. Raymond Takashi Swenson

  • Squeegee Beckenheim

    Forgetting or ignoring the circumstances leading to the use of A-bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the American effort to rebuild Japan and Europe after the war misses the point. Have any lessons learned from prior wars been applied to our current conflict? Is our president ahistorical? Are we?

  • Anonymous

    Oh, but if we could just push back the hands of time for your sweet little ass to hit the beaches of Japan instead of dropping the big one.

  • Falantedios

    I have only read one or maybe two mentions of the very real possibility of having simply blockaded the Home Islands. In mid-1945, Japan possessed zero capability to project force or launch offensive action. Any attempts to build such equipment could have been easily suppressed. A blockade places the responsibility squarely upon the citizens of the blockaded nation. Since the general citizenry had been armed and trained to defend against ground invasion, the capability would have already been in place for that citizenry to rebel against their government if that government remained unwilling to surrender. It is simply ludicrous to continue to discuss a land invasion of the Home Islands. It would never have been necessary. Truman simply wanted an increasingly unpopular war OVER before the American populace completely ran out of money and interest.respectfully,

  • Ciap

    It’s easy for us to sit back now and judge the events of that war.It’s easy for us to question now the use of such force to end the war.It’s easy for us to forget the horror our forefathers bore on a daily basis during that war.We didn’t have super computers.We didn’t have knowledge of the long term effects of radiation.We had a weapon that it was thought could bring a fast end to the war.And it did.It was the right choice at the time.

  • pc

    To Nick:”What about a National Day to honor all the victims who died at the hand of the evil and torturous Japanese?”This was meant to be a rhetorical question. The Japanese already have a National Day to remember the event. The US should not have to wring its hands over the decision to drop the bomb. By creating such a holiday would be to acquiesce to the Japanese that they were right in their aggression and that there is no need for a long overdue formal,official State apology from the Japanese government for all the atrocities committed. I am an American too. We should neither grieve or exult. What was done was done out of necessity. Hirohito claimed he decided to surrender to prevent the loss of more innocent Japanese lives. He forgot the loss of lives was the direct result of his aggression.

  • A.Lincoln

    The Japanese reaped what they had sown…death and destruction. During the war they forced thousands of women into sex slavery to service their soldiers (which they officially still deny). Today they still rape the environment, logging ancient forests in Indonesia, killing hundreds of whales for “scientific reasons”, purchasing the body parts of rare, endangered species, and stripping the ocean floor of all fish in huge netting operations. The list goes on, and on. Just like the horrendous acts of brutality they committed so many years ago.

  • Thad Godish

    In 1996 my wife and I visited Hiroshima. We looked up from the epicenter(near the dome)and tried to imagine the terrible force that was released that day. Walking the grounds, visiting the Peace Museum we saw few Americans. This is not an American Shrine we so instantly come to understand. To the southeast several thousand miles tears fill the eyes of Americans visiting the Memorial over the USS Arizona. The visitors are mostly American. There are no Japanese here. This is not a Japanese shrine. One has to experience both Hiroshima and Pearl Harbor to begin to understand what each and both mean to the peoples of the respective countries that went to war with each other as we approached the mid-20th century. War happens because part of humanity wills it to be.

  • seattledodger

    sorry i was so slow to catch on. because the japanese government acted brutally, it’s okay to kill japanese civilans.so if the american government acts brutally, i’m sure you’ll agree it’s okay to kill american civilians. bin ladin will be so pleased you support his tactics. fact is, lot of folks here seem to actually admire the terrorists; most efficent they are. with only one strike, they’ve achieved what hitler and tojo could only have dreamt of: the abandonment by america of any pretense to higher moral values. free speech, habeus corpus? out the window, along with the geneva conventions. i swear, i’ve never seen a whole country wet it’s collective pants before. sounds like the christians need a hug and a nappy change. better yet, just go nuke somebody, eh? that’ll do the trick.i guess the ends do indeed justify the means. sure explains a lot of american history, that’s for sure.in the words of homer simpson: “your thoughts intrigue me and i’d like to subscribe to your newsletter.”

  • Paul

    You ask a very loaded question that reflects only your own personal belief, very specific to your own condition, and an attempt to hitch history to this belief of yours today. This is wrong. Ask that same question in China today and see what answer you get. Ask my father, a marine in Philippines in 1945, preparing for the big-push. Ask any American at that time. Ghandi may have been correct that the effect on the soul of America was not yet known, but for Japan, it was certainly the destiny of a multitude of actions that Nation had taken since 1931.

  • Ivan Groznii

    The Japanese had a choice. They chose to continue fighting the war until Aug. 15, 1945. Japan chose not to end hostilities before Aug. 6, 1945. That seems to be Japan’s problem, not ours.Interestingly, Japan chose to surrender on Aug. 15, 1945, less than a week after Nagasaki was bombed.

  • Scott Romanov

    The United States, in the 1940’s, was able to penetrate Russian and Cuban security and steal the nuclear bombs which were dropped by the United States on Japan. This mistake will never be repeated by Russia, which now guards all nuclear weapons with Russian armed forces, as well as Russian foreign and domestic intelligence agencies, the FSS, FSB, successors to the KGB, and not Cubans, who were once partners in guarding the weapons. Russian nuclear weapons are furthermore protected by nuclear power and modern communications technology.This modern technology, armed forces, and Russian intelligence security will never be penetrated. Any attempts to penetrate this security, of the slightest degree, are countered with immediate nuclear reprisal against those involved, particularly the United States which frequently attempts to use other individuals to accomplish it’s objectives so as to absolve itself from blame. Thus, any attempt to penetrate Russian nuclear security by anyone will be countered by nuclear reprisal against United States targets, the white American establishment, houses, apartments, individuals, cars. The United States has no nuclear arsenal. The myth that the U.S. has nuclear weapons has been perpetrated by the U.S. government and the press so as to have U.S. citizens, the white establishment, believe that they are secure from nuclear reprisal, which they are not. Furthermore, any attempt by anyone to harm an ethnic Russian or Russia will be countered by nuclear reprisal against the white American establishment, which have been identified and can be destroyed, collectively, in under one minute.

  • Maddogg

    We are dang lucky to have had President Truman drop the bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The decision prevented future bombs from being dropped. It also saved many lives at the time.The message of that era is lost on many today in the United States.

  • candide

    Most Americans have no guilt, nor should they, about the use of the Atomic Bomb vs. Japan. In Japan we had a treacherous, evil enemy whose defeat was justified by all and any means found. Some of us regret we did not have the chance to A bomb the Nazi Germans.

  • David Jones

    I have always felt that destroying 2 Japanese cities with the atomic bomb is the greatest war crime ever committed. A mass of civilians was the target. They were not unfortunates caught up in cross fire. Of course, as is the custom, the victors are never prosecuted – only the reverse. I don’t ever see how the US can claim higher moral ground than its adversaries while this large, indelible stain remains on the fabric of our society. Conveniently, after initial explanations about how this ( incinerating over 100,000 innocent citizens ) would ultimately save lives, the matter has been swept under the carpet. It was a diabolical, criminal and cynical act, quite dwarfing anything that came afterwards ( including the Twin Towers ). I will always be disgusted over this.

  • gilbertbp

    The question, “How did Hiroshima erode our sense of morality?” assumes facts not in evidence. Before you ask HOW Hiroshima eroded our sense of morality, you have to establish that we are less moral today than we were in 1945. And even if you can prove that (good luck), you then have to prove that it’s because we destroyed Hiroshima.Do you think Americans are less moral today than they were in 1945? Prove it. Let’s see some facts and figures. And don’t even think about calling on the Iraq war as exhibit A, because in the 60-plus years since Hiroshima, we’ve developed weapons designed explicitly to cause FEWER civilian casualties; the civilian death toll during both Iraq invasions was insignificant, compared with history’s previous wars. Is that the behavior of a country whose morals have been eroded?I submit that contrary to the proposition, Hiroshima made us a MORE moral people, by showing us war so terrible that it made us draw back in horror, and do what we could to build weapons that would kill an enemy’s armies, not his civilian population, destroy his tanks and aircraft, not his hospitals and mosques.

  • James Johnson

    All the retrospection in the world can never place us in the circumstances which existed from December 7, 1941, whenAll the credible historical evidence affirms that Japan was notRevisionists will always overlook or minimize the state of the world in those years. They will always ignore the lies which the Japanese government told its own citizens: that American soldiers would rape and murder civilians once they had landed. We have no guilt or shame hanging over us for being the victorsI would not waste thirty seconds of my time glancing at Ms.

  • Sweet Mercy

    I knew clicking on the comments link was a mistake. As usual, it is a sea of the whiny and ill-informed.The use of the atomic bomb on Japan was unpleasant, but it was a final option. The United States had learned over YEARS of invading island fortresses that the Japanese were fanatical fighters. They defended every tiny little atoll to the last man, and even a village idiot could understand the insane ferocity with which they would defend their actual home islands. Go back and actually read some of the NY Times cover pages from the day – the US routinely lost thousands of its best soldiers *every day* of an island invasion.Without the atomic bomb, the fanatical Japanese Tojo-ites would have sacrificed their ENTIRE POPULATION fighting off an American invasion of Japan. They had already been training women and children to fight rather than surrender. Millions would have died on both sides. Dropping the atomic bomb (not even on Tokyo, I might add) was an *ethical* decision – it exhibited the United States’s overwhelming military destructive power in terms so obvious that no despotic system (as Japan’s was) could possibly hide it from the people. It demonstrated that resistance was pointless, because the US would not have to invade – it could simply obliterate Japan entirely and then walk ashore uncontested.As evidence of the sadism of the Japanese military, one bomb wasn’t even enough! People to this day still bleat like morons about how “unfair” the US was to use a second atomic bomb – are you kidding me? The real question is why did it require another to make Japan surrender! If you understand this question, you will understand the true depth of commitment Japan had to its Empire, and understand why the A-bomb was needed to finally break them of it. This is also why we didn’t have to nuke Germany – we were winning the conventional war there. By contrast, it remains unclear to this day whether we could have succeeded with a land invasion of Japan.Truman made the decision to kill a lot of people quickly in order to spare far more people later. It was a decision he was forced to make, and he made the right one. Pathetic 21st century guilt and historical revisionism does a huge disservice to the realties of the day and the true ethical choice that was made. Ironically, the same whining is usually made by people who love to throw around the word “quagmire” with regard to US military operations – can you possibly imagine how big of a quagmire Japan would have been?

  • James Black

    Once again someone decides to highlight the terrible act of dropping an atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Before we begin to lament how horrible we were to use the bomb let’s not forget why we used the bomb.It was estimated that the Allies would suffer approximately 1,000,000 casualties in an invasion of Japan. The Japanese themselves would have doubtlessly suffered even more casualties than those suffered at Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined. 200,000 civilians lost their lives during the invasion of Okinawa. Imagine how this would have compared to an invasion of mainland Japan.There are people who claim we did not need to invade Japan, but instead could have waited her out as we slowly cut her off from the rest of the world via blockade. How long would this have taken? 6 months? A year? And while we waited, what would have happened to the people in the territories and countries controlled by the Japanese? It is estimated that approximately 100,000 people a month died in the areas controlled by the Japanese during the war. If we had waited, how many more would have perished?Was dropping an atomic bomb on Hiroshima a tragedy? Yes. However, how tragic would it have been if we hadn’t?

  • mhr

    Ah, yes, another novelist’s dream world collides with the realities of the actual world. No doubt the lady has been too occupied with her novel to study history and particularly that of world war two. The Japanese fought ferociously to defend islands like Guadalcanal and Iwo Jima and US and Japanese casualties were enormous. Liberal Democrat President Truman calculated the numbers of military personnel and Japanese civilians who would die in the land invasion the US would have to make on Japan itself. He believed many lives would be saved in dropping the atom bomb. He was right. Fighting a war is much more difficult than writing novels. This ultimatley silly woman finds evil only in what her own country does. How can her sensitive soul stand living in the United States?

  • Pablo

    It seems to me the suffering of the Hiroshima survivors could have just as well have been related by survivors of a whole range of wartime events: the Japanese “Rape of Nanking,” the massacre of Polish prisoners of war in the Katyn Forest by the Soviet Union, the German bombing of Rotterdam and London, Nazi SS-einsatzgruppen Japanese biological warfare experiments, the Holocaust, the razing of the Warsaw ghetto, the Allied bombing of Hamburg and Dresden, or the U.S. firebombing of Japanese cities. The wholesale destruction of cities was abhorrent at the beginning of the war, but commonplace by the end.It seems to me there was plenty of ruthlessness to go around during World War II. The U.S. razed dozens of cities to the ground before Hiroshima and Nagasaki were destroyed, so I don’t see why the destruction of these two cities in particular should demonstrate a sense of morality (or lack thereof) any more than the cities we destroyed before them. As Robert E. Lee said, “It is well that war is so terrible. We should grow too fond of it.”Perhaps the question to be explored is not, “What do events of 60 years ago (Hiroshima and Nagasaki) say about U.S. morality,” but “What are the implications to morality of the fact that nuclear weapons have never been used in the last 60 years, despite many opportunities and provocations?” For example: by the U.S. (in Vietnam), Britain (against Argentina), the Soviet Union (against China), Israel (against the Arabs), and India and Pakistan (against each other).

  • Anonymous

    Fortunately, American Indians and African slaves didn’t have Nuclear Weapons at the time.Or else, they would have had the same moral justification to use it on European & American Colonists and Slavers, and the civillian populations.I hope that people in the middle east aren’t too upset with us for bombing, starting civil wars, and taking land also. I hope that antagonistic groups don’t have the same type of “moral” military reasoning if they gain nuclear weapons, and rationalize their possible use of WMD as “inevitable” and to kill civillians to save the lives of their miserabley misguided fighters.———In many respects, morality has become a tool of the victors & status quo to justify their own actions, and deny the other of justifications of competing interests.What settled WW2 is power. General LeMay enacted the strategy of “Total War.” — War of annhilation upon all, including civillians. Which was a strategy not much better than that of Imperal Japan. There was no moral high-ground, and it is absurd to claim such moral high-ground. What happened was a slippery slope to victory at all costs.In War, while there are no Atheists in foxholes, high and mighty ideals are tossed out of the trench to make room for grenades.Might made right, and fortunately the victors turned out to be better guys than the defeated.And Heaven forbid that anything like WW2 happen again.The US has done alot bad things while under sway of bad people (especially to non-white people: mass slavery of Africans, genocide of American Indians, invasion & massacre in the Philipinnes, Operation Phoenix & declaring “Free Fire Zones” to burn down villages in Vietnam, etc…), but the good people within the US have been able to prevail and do alot of good for the world.Our grand United States is not just “One People”, it is a nation undergoing continual flux, continually free to be able to struggle with its soul. The battle between good and evil fights within because America’s power & seats of influence attracts exploitative corrupt forces.God could not stop the horrors of WW2, but fortunately in Democracies, good people are free to try to make a difference.

  • Kim Langley

    Quick >> stick me in the eye.. I need a tear or two. This bull-crap about the imorality of the uSA using the A-bomb will go on forever I guess.. The USA did the right thing by dropping the bomb.. It actually probablly saved more lives than if we had continued along the conventional route… firebombing Japaneese cities.. You migh want to stick a paragraph about the sailors asleep in their racks on the USS Arizona on a DEC morning>> when their lives came to a firery end via the business end of a Jap bomb.. or maybe a paragraph from a Battan death march survivor… The Japs started this war > and we ended it. We have nothing to apoligize about.. War is war.. Unless youbeen there – done that > no credibility in my book

  • daniel crosby

    I guess some people when they question the dropping of the atomic bomb have forgotten how many Japanese civilians we killed in Tokyo and other cities with incendiary bombs from American B-29s. Many more than were killed by the atomic bomb! And this killing would have continued save for the Manhattan Project. Dropping the bomb most assuredly saved Japanese lives, not to mention American lives.

  • Anonymous

    Imagine a government who did not know the inpact of an atomic bomb. Would the Russians have invaded Europe in the late forties? How many bombs might we have used in response? How many would the Russians dropped as a response? Would Truman have let MaCarthur use the A-Bomb in Korea if the bomb had not be dropped in Japan?

  • Geoffrey Megargee

    Ms. Gallagher does indeed pose important questions, but to those I would add two that we must ponder, if we reject the validity of dropping the bomb. First, how would we have gotten Japan to surrender? And second, would we have been willing to accept the costs, to us, to the Japanese, and to the other peoples who were then under Japanese occupation?The alternatives were not pretty. An invasion might not have succeeded, and would have cost hundreds of thousands of American lives and probably millions of Japanese lives. Continuing the blockade would have doomed millions of Japanese to starvation. And either option would have led to the deaths of further hundreds of thousands in Japanese-occupied territories, where the authorities were certainly not troubled by the sorts of moral questions we now debate.In my view, we did a terrible but necessary thing.[For an exhaustive examination of the decision to drop the bomb, including the alternatives, I recommend Richard Franks’ book, Downfall.]

  • daniel crosby

    I guess some people when they question the dropping of the atomic bomb have forgotten how many Japanese civilians we killed in Tokyo and other cities with incendiary bombs from American B-29s. Many more than were killed by the atomic bomb! And this killing would have continued save for the Manhattan Project. Dropping the bomb most assuredly saved Japanese lives, not to mention American lives.

  • Gene Atwell

    It’s so easy to armchair quarterback 62 years after the fact but you could, at the very least, offer a balanced view.  Let me add these (and I could add a lot more) to your list that you have conveniently ignored:  Had we not developed the first bomb, would we even be here?  That’s another side of the equation you so righteously overlook in your haste to denigrate your own country.  What’s the connection between our own existence as a nation and the fact that we developed and with restraint deployed a weapon that was used twice in history?  Would any other world power of that era have shown the same restraint?  Did we attack the Japanese at Pearl Harbor in 1941?  What about Nanking in 1937? Want to also ignore Poland in 1939?Your “art of noticing” appears to notice only those “what ifs” and events that help your argument, not to aid in a true discussion of the pros and cons of nuclear weapons and the circumstances that brought about their existence and necessity for being used in the first place.

  • Tracy

    I have had the opportunity to meet many survivors, all of whom were children at the time of the bombings. One woman said her flesh melted like wax. Another saw a woman’s charred body, with only the breast she’d been using to feed her baby left unburned. She still held the dead baby in her arms. Another couldn’t recognize her schoolmate lying on the ground because the girl’s head was black and swollen like a balloon, with just a little mouth in the middle calling to her for help. Another one watched her little brother die in the middle of singing a song. All of them tell of the thousands of bodies in the river, people who jumped in to try to soothe the severe burns, but who didn’t survive their injuries. All tell of being kids searching for their moms and dads, sometimes finding them, sometimes not. These people said they learned to see the US leaders who dropped the bomb as separate from ordinary Americans. We, too, need to have compassion for those who were killed or injured while still condemning the atrocities committed by Japanese soldiers. War is rarely “good guys” and “bad guys” anyhow. And there are Japanese who want their government to be accountable for the terrible acts of the war, people who are alarmed by the current government. I do think burning and irradiating the civilians of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was a low moral point for this country. But we also irradiated our own people in Southern Utah and Nevada while performing above ground tests, including soldiers who watched them. We sickened Pacific Island people during tests, including kids who played in fallout like it was snow. We sickened our nuclear facility workers and the communities living around the plants. We injured uranium miners on reservations in New Mexico, where the workers were never told about the dangers of the ore. And we have continued to waste our money and our ideas pursuing weapons that are far more catastrophic than any other. We’re not alone in this mess. But we must reverse course and to responsibility for the people and places we have harmed.

  • brendan thomas

    what an awful article. nowhere does japanese facism and agression, the war in the pacific, american war dead, and japanese obstinacy in the face of looming defeat — meaning hundreds of thousands more dead on both sides, ever enter the discussion. in favor of syrupy godspeak and new-agey sounding sentimentalism, this author ignores any sort of rationale for the united states defending itself and winning wars in two hemispheres over hellbent dictators. what a doofus, and how far removed are we from reality and a sense of real threat, even today. if the tone of her novel is anything like the drippy tone of this this article, it must be unbearable.

  • Bob Walker

    I question if the writer remembers Bataan, Singapore, Wake, or the number of people, military and civilian that would have been killed had the war continued. It is easy to have emotions and feel bad about what one has done, but, had it not been done, then what? No one can condone killing except when it is to save one self or others. Often it is the only answer unless you desire to offer yourself, friends or others for a sacrifice to your so-called morality. It is so silly to put Guantanamo, Hiroshima and Abu Ghraib in the same sentence. As a young Marine, in training I underwent much more demeaning harassment and physical pain then those at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib. Wake up before you put yourself into despair and depression. I know we are a better people then you would have us be.

  • TomM

    As a child of a Marine poised to invade Japan in 1945 I see the dropping of the bombs as my path to life. Having attended conventions of these men from the sixties to the eighties and heard their stories I feel that they expected a fierce battle with not only the men in arms but the civilian population as well. I have heard, from them, estimates of two million U.S. casualties with 10 million Japanese. It seems the bombs saved Japan. I can imagine after paying such a large price the U.S. would still occupy Japan. Also, many people of the day wanted to destroy Tokyo and Yokohama instead of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I think you need to be a part of generation that went through the war and knew the barbarity of the Japanese armed forces to both prisoners and conquered people. There were quite a few of the survivors who would have been happy to see Japan totally wiped off the Earth.

  • Aquarius

    The gays did it! They are bringing our great nation down! One gay in particular: Enola

  • Steve Tonjes

    What would have happen to our soul as a nation if we had to invade the islands of Japan? Would we have killed more Japanese than were killed in Hiroshima? Would there have been more death of American and allied soldiers, marines and airman? What would that have done to those families’ souls and the way that they view the world? I wish that man kind could find a way to settle their differences without war but so far we have not been able to. There was something wrong with our souls before Hiroshima and sadly Abu Ghraib would have happened whether or not Hiroshima ever took place.Steve Tonjes

  • Tom Davy

    There is no link between Hiroshima and Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib. Had we not dropped the bomb, it was estimated that as many as a million Americans would have been killed in the taking of the Japanese Islands. It is perhaps good that we have some idea of how horrible nuclear weapons can be in the hope we never use them again. Had we not used them, would anyone really be moved by a “mathimatical model of the potential effects,” I don’t think so.

  • John P. Conrad

    I believe your post is “excellent!”

  • publius

    I had a small job on the Manhattan Project at the University of Chicago. Before the bomb was dropped, all of the persons at our site (and probably all the other sites on and off coampus)were polled. We were asked to choose among several alternatives, among which were keep it (the bomb) a scecret, dropit on a purely military target, drop it on an uninhabited island, drop it on a city. Because I feared the Russians, my own inclination was to keep it a secret with using it against a military target as second choice. However, I did not feel that it was morally objectionable to use it on a city on the grounds that the Axis nations had ceclared the war to be a total war involving their entire nations and had perpetrated Rotterdam, Coventry, the rocket bombardment of English civilian targets, Shanghai, Pearl Harbor. I had some doubts about it and I still do. We had fire-bombed Dresdem with a loss of 135,000. The justification? The population was organized in an effort literally to overthrow what we understand and kunderstoode then to be civilization. I regret to admit that I still do not have moral clarity about it.

  • Nobodymuch

    Every year at this time the world goes into a bout of grieving over the Japanese deaths from nuclear weapons. When is there a day of world grieving over the tens of millions of non-Japanese who died in that war? Let’s next have an editorial from a Chinese person to remind us how that war started. About 3000 Americans died on 9/11 and look what it did to the national psyche. It’s a big deal today if just a few dozen Americans die in some accident. But by August 6, 1945, the US had more than 300,000 dead and almost 700,000 wounded (many of those maimed, e.g. Senator Bob Dole), in a war started by the Japanese. I don’t think those of us born since then can understand, or be qualified to pass judgement on, the frame of mind of average Americans by 1945 regarding whether to inflict civilian deaths on Japan.

  • california condor

    Has it evaded the notice of Ms. Gallagher and her bloggers that American neoconservatives and Hillary Clinton, among others, have RECENTLY said use of American nuclear weapons against “enemies” in the Mideast and South Asia is “not off the table”? Like them, the Bush administration has explicitly lowered the threshold of nuclear war against non-nuclear states and is pushing to develop nuclear ‘bunkerbusters” and formulate new tactical uses of nuclear weapons. The cries of “nuke ’em” among America’s trailer park goobers frustrated with American military failure in Iraq and Afghanistan grows louder Yet all this stark, raving madness goes largely unremarked by media and opinion makers. Once-settled restraint in U.S. nuclear doctrine has broken down, with Cheney’s finger on the nuclear trigger, neocons at his elbow and U.S. Air Force hawks sounding more and more like the late, unlamented Curtis LeMay. The America that in WW2 took killing of civilian populations to an industrial level not seen since the Mongol Hordes is now poised to make nuclear weapons a normal feature of warfare. Is anybody listening?

  • Adam Mayle

    I don’t think that it eroded anything. First, while it is remembered today as history, it is not remembered in a more visceral sense that would have an impact on ourselves. As a younger generation, I think that it was a climax, surely, but it wasn’t unduly cruel as the war was cruel and it was far more humane to end it abruptly than to let it drag on with a land invasion.In fact, it set off an anti-nuclear strain in the human conscious that might have saved us from a wider nuclear conflict in the 20th century.And I have a question, don’t you think it is a little funny to commit an entire column to plug your book?

  • Doug Barber

    “Humanity is made up of one person at a time” – a great sentence.

  • Richard Dunbar

    Mr. Megaree,An evil act cannot be justified by claiming good ends. Intentionally killing innocent civilians is always and everywhere evil. When you go down the road of trying to justify the means by the ends, you are dealing in hypotheticals: you never know what would have happenned if you had refrained from the evil act.(Your form of justification is the same as a med student saying it would be good for her to get an abortion because then she’ll be able to finish medschool and become a doctor and save lots of lives. If she does become a doctor and saves 5 lives, does that mean aborting her child was not an evil act? No, abortion is always and everywhere evil.) Rather than kill hundreds of thousands of civilians, the US could have taken a number of different routes. None may seem as easy, but the right course is not always the easiest. The US could have negotiated an end to the war (not demanding “Total Surrender”, which was a particularly tough demand in the face of Japanese pride). We don’t know how this would have panned out because Truman went the route he did.What’s amazing now is to see Truman recently on the cover of Newsweek with an article about how both parties hunger for a new Truman. This is the idea of a great leader. Sure he was decisive. He decisively ordered the slaughter of civilian populations and then decisively recognized Israel, deep-sixing UN plans for a two state solution.Richard Dunbar

  • mike

    it is not surprising to see so many people spouting off endlessly with no use for facts – that is the main function of this site. Here some info from wikipedia on what some people who thought it wasn’t militarily necessary to drop the bomb. You will hopefully notice that such noted pacifists as Gen MacArthur and Eisenhower didn’t think it was a good idea – Those who argue that the bombings were unnecessary on military grounds hold that Japan was already essentially defeated and ready to surrender.One of the most notable individuals with this opinion was then-General Dwight D. Eisenhower. He wrote in his memoir The White House Years: “In 1945 Secretary of War Stimson, visiting my headquarters in Germany, informed me that our government was preparing to drop an atomic bomb on Japan. I was one of those who felt that there were a number of cogent reasons to question the wisdom of such an act. During his recitation of the relevant facts, I had been conscious of a feeling of depression and so I voiced to him my grave misgivings, first on the basis of my belief that Japan was already defeated and that dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary, and secondly because I thought that our country should avoid shocking world opinion by the use of a weapon whose employment was, I thought, no longer mandatory as a measure to save American lives.”[90][91]Other U.S. military officers who disagreed with the necessity of the bombings include General Douglas MacArthur (the highest-ranking officer in the Pacific Theater), Fleet Admiral William D. Leahy (the Chief of Staff to the President), General Carl Spaatz (commander of the U.S. Strategic Air Forces in the Pacific), Brigadier General Carter Clarke (the military intelligence officer who prepared intercepted Japanese cables for U.S. officials),[91] Admiral Ernest King, U.S. Chief of Naval Operations, Undersecretary of the Navy Ralph A. Bard,[92] and Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, Commander in Chief of the Pacific Fleet.[93] “The Japanese had, in fact, already sued for peace. The atomic bomb played no decisive part, from a purely military point of view, in the defeat of Japan.” Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, Commander in Chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet.[94] “The use of [the atomic bombs] at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender.” Admiral William D. Leahy, Chief of Staff to President Truman.[94]The United States Strategic Bombing Survey, after interviewing hundreds of Japanese civilian and military leaders after Japan surrendered, reported: “Based on a detailed investigation of all the facts, and supported by the testimony of the surviving Japanese leaders involved, it is the Survey’s opinion that certainly prior to 31 December 1945, and in all probability prior to 1 November 1945, Japan would have surrendered even if the atomic bombs had not been dropped, even if Russia had not entered the war, and even if no invasion had been planned or contemplated.”[95][94] The survey assumed that conventional bombing attacks on Japan would greatly increase as the bombing capabilities of July 1945 were …a fraction of its planned proportion…[96] due to a steadily high production rate of new B-29s and the reallocation of European airpower to the Pacific. When hostilities ended, the USAAF had approximately 3700 B-29s of which only about 1000 were deployed.[97]Had the war gone on these and still more aircraft would have brought devastation far worse than either bomb to many more cities. The results of conventional strategic bombing at the cease-fire were summed up thusly: “…On the basis of photo coverage, intelligence estimated that 175 square miles of urban area in 66 cities were wiped out. Total civilian casualties stemming directly from the urban attacks were estimated at 330,000 killed, 476,000 injured, and 9,200,000 rendered homeless.” General Haywood S. Hansell[97]General MacArthur has also contended that Japan would have surrendered before the bombings if the U.S. had notified Japan that it would accept a surrender that allowed Emperor Hirohito to keep his position as titular leader of Japan, a condition the U.S. did in fact allow after Japan surrendered. U.S. leadership knew this, through intercepts of encoded Japanese messages, but refused to clarify Washington’s willingness to accept this condition. Before the bombings, the position of the Japanese leadership with regards to surrender was divided. Several diplomats favored surrender, while the leaders of the Japanese military voiced a commitment to fighting a “decisive battle” on Kyūshū, hoping that they could negotiate better terms for an armistice afterward. The Japanese government did not decide what terms, beyond preservation of an imperial system, they would have accepted to end the war; as late as August 9, the Supreme War Council was still split, with the hard-liners insisting Japan should demobilize its own forces, no war crimes trials would be conducted, and no occupation of Japan would be allowed. Only the direct intervention of the emperor ended the dispute, and even then a military coup was attempted to prevent the surrender.Historian Tsuyoshi Hasegawa’s research has led him to conclude that the atomic bombings themselves were not even the principal reason for capitulation. Instead, he contends, it was the swift and devastating Soviet victories in Manchuria that forced the Japanese surrender on August 15, 1945.[98]

  • peter giebels

    i share your questions noraonce i said to my sun, who is an astrophysicist.people are able to kill for a reason,becaus people are not reasonnable.

  • Naval Officer

    While civilized people grimice at the idea of nuking Mecca and Medina, what ideas do you offer? While serving in Afghainstan, I learned that these people have no concept of nation – only clan, tribe, and Allah. Taking out their capital city is meaningless to them. Taking out their clan might work if we could match the terrorist with his clan and then isolate the clan. If they really beleived we had the nerve to distroy the only eartly thing they care about, then maybe and only maybe, they might stop killing our people. Islam sees this as their time for revenge for the Crusades, never mind that the US was not a nation then. They are a dark-age people with modern weapons.

  • Rob Adams

    I think we are missing the point of this thread. We debate whether it was right or wrong to bomb Hiroshima. Either way it was tragic. We are debating whether sacrificing 100,000 to save a million is a good thing. Regardless it was tragic. We debate are the children of Hiroshima more deserving of our sympathy that those who died at Pearl Harbor. It is all tragic. We debate the atrocities of one country over another. It is all tragic. Other than scale is it any different to nuke a city or be a suicide bomber? Both can be justified depending one’s perspective. The question is do we come up with better ways to kill each other and better arguments to justify these actions or do we find a way to peace.I would suggest that the having to kill to prevent others being killed is an insane model to begin with. Have we as a global society learning anything from the tragedies of war and/or aggression? Instead of all sides justifying their actions we would be better served working to help ensure we don’t need to go down this path again.

  • Sean

    Kudos to the author for totally failing to put the story into the context of broader struggle. To do otherwise would cost her some book sales.

  • DVN

    I think the soul turned out pretty good—-secure in the knowledge that several hundred thousand American lives were saved.

  • Dennis

    Our Nation’s soul is not lost. Far from it. This article seems to lack the greater historical perspective of World War II and the military concept of “Total War.” For those who still grieve for the Japanese who died when we dropped

  • Tom Gleason

    All I can say, is thank God for the bomb. We don’t need to second guess the secret weapon that saved possibly 2 million American soldiers lives – my dad was in Lincoln, NE awaiting orders after forming a bombing crew that probably would have been shot down, so we have no regrets.The Japs started the War, and as we know now, FDR encourage it. Talk about torture- look what the Japs did to the Chinese and Philippines!!! Also, the nuclear bomb has so far kept to Soviets and communists Chinese from conquering the world!The best, most cost efficient weapon we have, still today.

  • Jim

    Clearly the deaths of so many in Hiroshima and Nagasaki were a tragedy – but I don’t see how they were any different from the deaths of civilians in other cities in Europe or China or Russia or Japan. I don’t see how killing with nuclear weapons is any worse than high explosive bombs, or fire bombs or gas chambers or starvation. The hope and thinking at the time was that dropping the bombs would end the war sooner – thereby saving lives in the end. And I believe that that probably was the end result, although I have often wondered whether we could have waited longer before dropping the second bomb – to give Japan more time to understand the situation and, hopefully, surrender without the second bomb. But, we’ll never know whether they would have surendered without the second tragedy. While nuclear weapons certainly pose a continuing threat, it does appear that they have made war too terrible to contemplate – at least for rationale people – and as a result I think that they have actually served to save lives over the past 60 years. Without their threat, I think it would have been quite likely that there might have been a World War III. The big unanswered question for me is whether nuclear weapons will be used by the Islamic terrorists who, unlike nation states, appear to be much more likely to use any weapons they can obtain in the hope that they’ll be rewarded in Heaven – that’s a truly scary scenario. But even in that situation I don;t think that nuclear weapons pose near the risk that biological weapons would pose in the hands of terrorists.

  • Jim

    Clearly the deaths of so many in Hiroshima and Nagasaki were a tragedy – but I don’t see how they were any different from the deaths of civilians in other cities in Europe or China or Russia or Japan. I don’t see how killing with nuclear weapons is any worse than high explosive bombs, or fire bombs or gas chambers or starvation. The hope and thinking at the time was that dropping the bombs would end the war sooner – thereby saving lives in the end. And I believe that that probably was the end result, although I have often wondered whether we could have waited longer before dropping the second bomb – to give Japan more time to understand the situation and, hopefully, surrender without the second bomb. But, we’ll never know whether they would have surendered without the second tragedy. While nuclear weapons certainly pose a continuing threat, it does appear that they have made war too terrible to contemplate – at least for rationale people – and as a result I think that they have actually served to save lives over the past 60 years. Without their threat, I think it would have been quite likely that there might have been a World War III. The big unanswered question for me is whether nuclear weapons will be used by the Islamic terrorists who, unlike nation states, appear to be much more likely to use any weapons they can obtain in the hope that they’ll be rewarded in Heaven – that’s a truly scary scenario. But even in that situation I don;t think that nuclear weapons pose near the risk that biological weapons would pose in the hands of terrorists.

  • robert humphries

    Why didn’t we drop the first bomb off-shore and let a huge wave demonstrate the power of it without ruining the people of a city? Did we wait long enough after Hiroshima for the Japanese to react before setting off the next bomb?We cannot forget that the fire-bombing of Tokyo and Dresden were really no different just a slight difference in scale.And where does God fit in? AWOL once again as he always is whether not intervening between people or whether allowing disease and natural disasters to occur at will. Its up to us to choose the right way in our interactions and to use science to fight disease and predict disasters.

  • Bill P

    It is a large question, but having spent time these last few years with an atomic veteran, a former Marine now dying of atomic-related cancer, I would say that the Hiroshima bombing was something this country has had to face in the darkest ways ever since. Jung had this idea of collective shadow, where a whole nation, e.g. Nazi Germany, is enveloped in activities so evil they are beyond personal wrongdoing. I have never bought the idea that we saved lives by dropping that bomb on Japan. The Peace Park at Hiroshima is a constant reminder of the potential for committing to a notion of peace as the essential factor facing us today. It is either learning how to live together or some form of collective suicide. I suggest the American people learn how to fold paper cranes (in homage to Peace) rather than go about scornfully bragging about our power as a chosen nation. The intelligent nation, as both Gandhi and Marin Luther King knew very well, is the one who pursues at least a sanity about nuclear weapons, realizing that ultimately there are now winners when it comes to world destruction.

  • Bill P

    It is a large question, but having spent time these last few years with an atomic veteran, a former Marine now dying of atomic-related cancer, I would say that the Hiroshima bombing was something this country has had to face in the darkest ways ever since. Jung had this idea of collective shadow, where a whole nation, e.g. Nazi Germany, is enveloped in activities so evil they are beyond personal wrongdoing. I have never bought the idea that we saved lives by dropping that bomb on Japan. The Peace Park at Hiroshima is a constant reminder of the potential for committing to a notion of peace as the essential factor facing us today. It is either learning how to live together or some form of collective suicide. I suggest the American people learn how to fold paper cranes (in homage to Peace) rather than go about scornfully bragging about our power as a chosen nation. The intelligent nation, as both Gandhi and Marin Luther King knew very well, is the one who pursues at least a sanity about nuclear weapons, realizing that ultimately there are now winners when it comes to world destruction.

  • Ron

    Nora,Sorry but your story and opinion are nosense. The GOP are against all that is American. They do not have any morals.The GOP are coloser to the NAZI and the Japenese Military that were destroyed in WWII than they are to Americans. Americans who used the Atomic Bomb to save millions of lives. Those lives save have had a lot of children that now enjoy life. That is what was at stake.Equilating the GOP immoralitity with America morals is baseless and just nonsense.Sorry you wrote an article like this.

  • Rich Rosenthal

    Japan’s military leadership appeared ready to fight to the death of every last man, woman, and child in the State.Apparently not! We frightened them into surrendering with two scary bombs. But I am sure that Japan was also frightened by other threats, like slavery to the Russians, starvation and inevitable defeat. So I agree that there were many factors in Truman’s decision and the Japanese’s. Simple thinking such as “big boom-war ends” is embarrassing.

  • Rich

    I’m not sure it’s really honest to focus too much on Hiroshima as some kind of grand event rivalling all the horrors that came before: those that remember the era and those who know their history are well aware that the Americans and British had spend the last 4 Summers before Hiroshima deliberately carpet-bombing the population of Germany in defiance of all morality in order to hasten an end to the war and, in the case of the British, to exact twisted vengeance for the German blitz on London. American conventional bombing of Hamburg incinerated as many people in one night as were lost at Hiroshima. The efficiency of the Hiroshima device doesn’t make the event singular; the important matter is that we have not acknowledged the inherent criminality of our entire air campaign even in the distance of history, nor have the British owned up to the utterly indefensible immorality of the air campaign they thrust upon us as their new allies. Hiroshima was only part of a larger picture…

  • BOB JOHNSON

    EXCUSE ME,WHAT ABOUT PEARL HARBOR?LA REVENGE.BESIDES JAPAN WAS A BARBARIC NATION.ASK CHINA,KOREA AND OTHER NATIONS IN SE ASIA.

  • elijah

    There is certainly no denying the horrific destruction the a-bomb created, and it is sad that such a thing occurred. But it was a necessary evil, I believe, and to characterize it as “ruthless annihilation” is to condemn the greatness of our country in defeating the persistent Japanese enemy. I’m not sure Hiroshima eroded our sense of morality at all. Quite the contrary. I think it has opened many people’s eyes to the hell that is war, and, thus, has encouraged many to reconcile conflicts without bullets or fire or bombs. It’s simplistic to characterize Hiroshima, becuase of the sheer loss of life, as a mistake. Had we not dropped the bomb, how many more would have died? Most scholars and military historians say many, many more – as much as 1 million – because of the fanaticical resistence of the Japanese people. If you question this, read James Bradley’s Flyboys – it is an exceptional historical account of the brainwashing that gripped the average Japanese and forced them into kamikaze missions, among many other disturbing deeds. For whatever reason, the fact that so many perished due to the a-bomb strikes some as the most cruel action ever committed by humankind. But would it be any less cruel if hundreds of thousands more died in less compelling ways, especially considering many of those deaths would have been American?

  • David Rosenberg

    How come nobody cares if people get killed one or two at a time but everyone comes unglued when bunches die dramatically. My pet peeve is that no one seems to care about the 40,000+ who die every year in car wrecks, but act as if the end of the world has occurred when a bunch die in a bridge failure, even tho that it would take decades for bridge failure deaths to even add up to DUI deaths.I couldn’t believe that our pastor this weekend asked the parishioners to pray for those who died and for their loved ones, but did not mention those still in the hospital or those who died in Minneapolis in car wrecks the week of the bridge failure. How many would have died one at a time had we not used the atom bomb. But then no one would have cared about that.

  • Phil Smith

    Somebody here is nuts, has never been engaged in battle, and was not on deck at Pearl Harbor. That person is Nora Gallagher. Come to your senses and stop contemplating your navel, Nora. You were not one of the thousands of US sailors eaten by sharks after being blown out of the water and then left for dead by the Japanese Navy. You did not perish and leave love ones, Nora, as a result of kamikaze attacks. Perhaps if you had seen and experiences those horrors you would write about something you know about. Get real, enlist, and try out being a chaplain in Iraq, Nora. You’ll find out something else besides how to write about something during the cool of the afternoon on your back porch.

  • Erik

    As horrible as the effects of the use of the atomic bomb were, I think you have to view the decision to use it during the time period/era that the decision was made. After nearly 5 years of war, and the death of many thousands of Americans, and the planned invasion of the Japanese mainland, along with the high casualties anticipated, the bomb had to be used. I don’t know if the author of this article had known that there was a standing order amongst the Japanese military to execute all American POW’s at the begining of any invasion of the Japanese main island of Honchu. In addition, any prolonged engagement would have brought the Russians into the fight, and might have resulted in a North/South Japan, much like we see in Korea today.to write such an article and not mention the horrors of the Battaan Death march, the conditions of POW camps run by the Japanese, the rape of Nan King, Unit 731 which conducted bio-chemical experiments on live Chinese subjects, all manifested by Japan, is obsurd. One last point – If a bloody battle had ensued for the Japanese mainland, and it would have, surely more Japanese lives would have been lost, and as a result, the reconstruction of Japan, and any reconciliation between our two peoples would have been very difficult to accomplish. I respect the Japanese people, and thier culture. I think we are strong allies because of the War and the brutality it brought to both sides. But to make America out as some evil country for finishing a war it didn’t start really pisses me off, and it obscures the bravery, blood, and sacrifice that many Americans made to win the war and secure our freedoms.

  • D.I.

    Is this an essay or an advertisement for the author’s novel? Ms. Gallagher could have very well addressed her central theme–which, at any rate, she fails to do in this essay, without hawking her novel as well. She never actually confronts the issue of what dropping the bomb did to the soul of the conquering nation–just uses the occasion as a pretext for mentioning–several times–that she has written a novel. Bad form.

  • Ota Molloy

    Why publish this shameless self-promotion under the banner of a discussion of morality? That the author only asks the hard questions at the end and then offer’s her novel as an answer is about as hollow and empty as the world after Hiroshima.

  • Arif

    Naval Officer,To all the others who hate themselves because of the bomb; in all wars the technologically advanced nation wins, in this case it was the USA. The Japanese were no saints, you could also ask the question; if Japan had the bomb would they use it against the USA? I am quite sure they would, just like any Mullah will once they get their hands on one.

  • mike

    Typical liberal tripe. God the left disgusts me with their utter intellectual dishonesty.

  • Anonymous

    just another fuzzy liberal. thank heavensHarry Truman, who dropped the bombs, was a trueamerican patriot

  • colorado kool aid

    So it would have made YOU feel better if 200,000 U.S. soldiers had died instead? Not me . . .the dropping of the bomb on Hiroshima has done nothing to my soul, nothing compared to your notion of right and wrong and your desire to have seen our soldiers die instead. That is apparently all too easy for YOU to think about.

  • Hideki

    I have not read Ms. Gallagher’s novel so I am not in a position to defend her essay above. However, war does not solve anything, it merely postpones socio-cultural conflict to a later date. We’re still witnessing what the Treaty of Versailles “accomplished” in eastern Europe and the Middle East. The United States may not have lost its “soul” after the atomic genocide of Japan but it did lose a considerable amount of respect and moral authority in the world. Like a team using a technological edge to beat out competitors in the Tour de France, the USA took the quick and dirty way out of the Pacific War. As a previous post mentioned, the War Department knew that Japan couldn’t fight much longer. (Kinda like the FBI knowing that Japanese-Americans posed no security risk but they put them in concentration camps anyway?)On the other hand, the idea of honor in war is non-sensical unless one (or more) of the warring parties actually values human life. Why celebrate the return of a soldier when other citizens are sick and dying of malnutrition or are awaiting execution on the gallows? A moral society should also be mourning equally the ‘honorable” dead soldiers of the opponent, as they are doing their job as much as our own.The American spirit is and has been unique in the present world its energy and positive outlook. It is interesting and probably theraputic to argue the state of its soul and morality but the historical heart of America pulses with an opportunitistic corporate capitalism and legally a corporation cannot place any human/moral values above its profit line.

  • valleyforge

    Hiroshima validated war as political policy and made it far easier for others who followed to defend military “solutions” to social problems. Hiroshima also represents a mistake so huge few in positions of political or social power can ever admit it’s massive moral wrongness. If the energy spent defending and justifying Hiroshima had been used fighting hunger or researching a cure for AIDS, would the world be different today?I think aggression, the need to subdue, and the desire to kill, are hard-wired into the human nervous system. There is a small part of our brains, and therefore our minds and spirits, that remains functionally identical to the brains of shrews and cats and other warm-blooded carnivores. That part of us is no more evident than a fly in a cathedral, but it constantly nudges us to choose Hiroshimas of all magnitudes and consequences. And if often succeeds.To my mind, George Bush is both dangerous and dispicable because he has justified and defended his own personal Hiroshima with the most specious arguments–world freedom, national security, and protection of the innocent. It does not speak well for America’s moral health that they have supported him.

  • Jim Collins

    I’m not sure I understand the source of this historical revisionism on Hiroshima that pops up every now and then. Perhaps this revisionism is rooted in a failure to read and analyze that primary source history. Or, perhaps this revisionism is rooted in an apparently faddish need to confess a national guilt. I’m not sure.We have plenty of other national defects to feel guilty about than the legal use of a primitive superweapon that may have shortened the Second World War and saved a million or so lives by doing so. Racism in the US is one of those things that divides our nation and shakes our faith. That issue needs the quiet reflection that seems to be spent instead on rehashing the decisions made by allied thinkers sixty years ago to convince an increasingly truculant and suicidal Japanese Imperial Council that it urgently needed to end its belligerancy. The “national guilt” on using nuclear weapons to end World War Two falls squarely on the shoulders of Emperor Hirohito and his intransigent (and insubordinate) Imperial Council — not on Oppenheimer, Groves, Marshall, Arnold, etc.

  • pc

    to Hideki:You wrote “Like a team using a technological edge to beat out competitors in the Tour de France, the USA took the quick and dirty way out of the Pacific War.”You accuse America of being quick and dirty? After the first bombing, Japan was ready to sacrifice a million of its own people in hopes that the US would present a less restrictive surrender treaty. Japan was ready to fight to the bitter end. Dirty? The Japanese at Unit 731 weren’t dirty?

  • WAJ

    America has proven time and time again that she is good at killing. The irony of it all, is that when a relatively small disaster like VA Tech, or the MN bridge collapse occurs, the entire nation appears to grieve. In Iraq, scores of people are killed in a single instance, and you do not witness the length of grief coverage by the press as we do here. The aftermath of Hiroshima is that Americans are terrified of nuclear weapons, and will forever be haunted by them.

  • george

    Soul of the destroying nation? What the he*l is the matter with her? Does she not understand why we used atomic weapons against Japan? Does she not realize we have never used them since?One could assume from reading this tripe – and many products of revisionist public schools would believe – that Japan was the victim and we were the aggressors.This is a sick, twisted individual. She needs to stay at someplace like the Kos where her mindset can truly be appreciated.

  • KJ

    So Japan attacks a US naval base, killing many military personnel and civilians in an act of war. And so we decide to prevent mass carnage and destruction by, creating mass carnage and destruction. Great logic.There is absolutely NO JUSTIFICATION for dropping the bomb. None. Zero. It was an act of dishonor and cowardice. You have to be an absolute coward to hide behind a nuclear bomb.For those of you that are HAPPY and THRILLED that we nuked over 300,000 innocent civilians, you have no hope. You will try to justify mass carnage and destruction in a way of suppressing your own guilt, but if you could say that you were happy that 300,000 civilians were incinerated, then I’m sure you didn’t mind 9/11.Oh wait, that was different. Those were American civilians, which are, clearly, more precious than anyone else.I’m sickened and ashamed that some of you are posting that you’re happy that the bomb saved military lives — I guess the lives of innocent woman and children meant absolutely nothing.The Japanese did have a brutal, deadly history. But we were supposed to have been better.

  • Anonymous

    I am dissappointed but not surprised by the attitude of many, if not most the posters on this board. Zero condolence over this anniversary, and the cold hearted, merciless attitude towards the Japanese people.If many Americans still have a grudge against the Japanese people for (the mostly military attack upon) Pearl Harbor, it was paid back in full, a thousand fold.Many say that the “Japs” — hundreds of thousands of civillians, deserved it, because the Imperial Army killed hundreds of thousands of civillians, and attacked Pearl Harbor.And yet if those civillians are killed by being burned, nuked, and irradiated to death, it is not immoral. Having one’s children have their skin slough off and then die, or being burned to death by phosporous is a horrifying death.They are not a monolithic entity. In fact, most of the populace was denied a choice in what their _Totalitarian government_ did. And yet, it comes across as if they are regarded as all the same.It is very tragic that they were denied a choice, and yet many were forced into the military (often ordered to fight to the death), and at home, whole families were burned alive. If a dictatorship orders its army to attack another and commit atrocities, who bears the most responsibility and blame for those decisions? The Dictatorship.On the other hand, IF a Democracy attacks or commits atrocities, who bears the most responsibility and blame? If given political freedom, and freedom of information, how moral is the populace who elects and continues to support governments which commit atrocities such as the deliberate targetting of hundreds of civillians, genocide, massacres, torture, immoral wars, etc… ?

  • Tom Crumley

    I think the author needs to research the history of World War II a bit better. The horrors of Hiroshima are obvious but she does not note the horrors that utterly horrible regime, Imperial Japan, visited upon the rest of Asia. Who would the author have paid the price for Imperial Japan’s crime? Hundreds of thousands of American, Britiish and Australian soldiers? Imperial Japan was truly the destroying nation and that weapon helped to end that horrible regime. The only shame is that it was not ready 2 years earlier to save the lives of hundreds of thousands of Russian, British, and American soldiers in the fight against Nazi Germany–not to mention Holocaust victims.

  • Jacob

    Hiroshima has no meaning. Too far gone. US morality and fakeness as a country with its American flag and “Sea to shining Sea” songs is really Vietnam and Iraq and Bush. The US is not to save the world but rather to be in control. And the world hates us, asslickers included.

  • George Albert

    Ms. Gallagher trivializes the requirement to end the war with Japan by equating it with Abu Grahib and Guantanamo. Guantanamo is a clear example of our groveling at the alter of evil lest we not be equated with evil. The prisoners at Guantanamo are treated so much better than any other prisoners of war, ever, that any suggestion that there is some analogy to Hiroshima is petty and foolish. And as for Abu Gharib, well we had a few aberant soldiers with poor judgment, but there was no torture as the word certainly is defined by people that are not phychotic haters of the United States.Hiroshima was a tragedy that was caused by Japan, not the US. And I state plainly that it was better for 400,000 Japanese to die by the bomb than it would have been for a million or more Japanese to have died conventionally and it is unquestionably better than having a million US soldiers die invading Japan. Ms.Gallaher suffers from a complete lack of understanding of both human nature and the history of the world. And her entire discussion trivializes our humanity’s unending quest for Liberty and Peace, not just surrender.

  • Melanie Swan

    What a bunch of BS. Get real.

  • Melanie Swan

    What a bunch of BS. Get real.

  • candide

    Anyone whose conscience is bothered about the atomic bombs dropped on Japan is probably so bleeding heart that he/she would not want to harm a single Islamic terrorist either.Leave bleeding hearts to Catholic sado-masochists.

  • Fred

    Naive. Extremely naive and shallow. Okinawa was the exact signal the Japanese Military leaders wanted to send to the US and Allies. My dear old Dad was with the 2nd Marine Division, shot up across the Pacific against the very Japanese you write up as victims. He had no plans to leave his job in a cotton mill and travel around the world getting in bloodbath after bloodbath. Tarawa, too many battles to mention, the 2nd Mar Div was on the books as one of the units to spearhead the invasion of mainland Japan in 1946.Japan had cached monstrous numbers of suicide planes, boats and armed all civilians to carry out a war of extermination in hopes of getting this country to quit.As far as I personally am concerned, enjoy your picture of the nice Japanese culture developed after the war. It was not in place before Hiroshima. The bomb changed that. Without the bomb we would have had poison gas, radioctive seeding and final-solution grade events to finish up.Case in point: In the long term planning for the capture of the main islands the 2nd Marine Division (and 1st, 5th, 6th) do not make the pages again as active units until 1949-1950.My dear old Dad would be splattered somewhere on the rocky slopes of Japan and my simple-minded self wouldn’t be here.Digest the physchology of all this in the light of the fact that if there is an all-seeing and all-knowing God would that God not rather nuke a city that exterminate a people?My country has the gift of self-loathing down to an art.Go have some sushi and ponder the immutable path of logic with the other nay-sayers.Like I said, I’m a simple dude and reading through the totality of the comments here I see that the self-loathing and lack of resolve have become pervasive to insure that our Country can not succeed in the world any more.The posts above have generally convinced me that we have lost it…what ever the hell it can be defined as being.Kids have it right…”They started it, reap the whirlwind.”

  • Asim

    Naval Officer,Arif, why are you hiding behind an Islamic name? I trust you work for AIPAC or the late Jerry Falwell,don’t you. And why bomb Mecca? It is no more than a place-and will not destroy Islam-it’s industructable-such a sick thought can only come from a sick mind-such an would galvanise the fragmented Muslim World against the agressors;Would not the destruction of the vitacan do the same?

  • Bluez

    The bombings ended the war quickly and efficiently, and most importantly, favorably for the United States with a limited expenditure of resources and human lives.As a secondary justification, which I find personally irrespective of the first, Japan certainly benefited from the bombing as it left the population, leaders, and resources more intact than had the planned U.S. invasion occurred. If the U.S. launched the planned ground invasion of Japan, Japanese resources and population would have been essentially decimated to the point of complete and total economic collapse, and years of poverty and disease would have occurred. Japan would not be the nation it is today and millions, not hundreds of thousands, would have perished.

  • Karen

    Uggh, another liberal feel good weirdo rewriting history. The connection between Hiroshima and Abu Ghraib? Let us make sure Nora Gallagher remains so shelter, so naive, so ignorant, that she was lucky to not be in the World Trade Center, or in one of our African Embassy’s in 1998, or in the Rome Airport or a jew at the Olympics, or at Pearl Harbor. Let us hope this woman is never around children.

  • Karen

    Uggh, another liberal feel good weirdo rewriting history. The connection between Hiroshima and Abu Ghraib? Let us make sure Nora Gallagher remains so shelter, so naive, so ignorant, that she was lucky to not be in the World Trade Center, or in one of our African Embassy’s in 1998, or in the Rome Airport or a jew at the Olympics, or at Pearl Harbor. Let us hope this woman is never around children.

  • H. A. Eddington

    Certainly the ‘Atomic Bomb’ contributed to where we find ourselves (not many American’s analyze themselves or our nation) today. After 4 years of brutal killing of civilian’s, our allies, and our soldiers by the Axis, the “Bomb” was a welcome event for people worldwide. It was startling and gratifying, even moreso after Nagasaki caused the Emperor to command surrender. The new weapons were only a small part of the transformation of our nation, our people’s attitudes, about war. Hiroshima was dramatic enough to grab people’s attention after the numbness of seeing continuous battles, death and destruction.Wars shaped our nation, not weapons. I was fascinated by the accounts of the atomc bombs. I joined the Army Air Force when I was 17, not to drop bombs but to get the GI Bill to go to college. I was in Japan in 1950/51 and got to know the Japanese people. Civilians and soldiers suffer greatly if they are passive to a leader who starts wars. I was in Korea and Vietnam and know the futility of war. Weapons are just a parcel of that futile effort. We do not permit ourselves (the nation) to do anything but war is the catalyst that compels some people to do bad things.

  • H. A. Eddington

    Certainly the ‘Atomic Bomb’ contributed to where we find ourselves (not many American’s analyze themselves or our nation) today. After 4 years of brutal killing of civilian’s, our allies, and our soldiers by the Axis, the “Bomb” was a welcome event for people worldwide. It was startling and gratifying, even moreso after Nagasaki caused the Emperor to command surrender. The new weapons were only a small part of the transformation of our nation, our people’s attitudes, about war. Hiroshima was dramatic enough to grab people’s attention after the numbness of seeing continuous battles, death and destruction.Wars shaped our nation, not weapons. I was fascinated by the accounts of the atomc bombs. I joined the Army Air Force when I was 17, not to drop bombs but to get the GI Bill to go to college. I was in Japan in 1950/51 and got to know the Japanese people. Civilians and soldiers suffer greatly if they are passive to a leader who starts wars. I was in Korea and Vietnam and know the futility of war. Weapons are just a parcel of that futile effort. We do not permit ourselves (the nation) to do anything but war is the catalyst that compels some people to do bad things.

  • H. A. Eddington

    Certainly the ‘Atomic Bomb’ contributed to where we find ourselves (not many American’s analyze themselves or our nation) today. After 4 years of brutal killing of civilian’s, our allies, and our soldiers by the Axis, the “Bomb” was a welcome event for people worldwide. It was startling and gratifying, even moreso after Nagasaki caused the Emperor to command surrender. The new weapons were only a small part of the transformation of our nation, our people’s attitudes, about war. Hiroshima was dramatic enough to grab people’s attention after the numbness of seeing continuous battles, death and destruction.Wars shaped our nation, not weapons. I was fascinated by the accounts of the atomc bombs. I joined the Army Air Force when I was 17, not to drop bombs but to get the GI Bill to go to college. I was in Japan in 1950/51 and got to know the Japanese people. Civilians and soldiers suffer greatly if they are passive to a leader who starts wars. I was in Korea and Vietnam and know the futility of war. Weapons are just a parcel of that futile effort. We do not permit ourselves (the nation) to do anything but war is the catalyst that compels some people to do bad things.

  • TH

    The writer is incredibly naive about history, war, and the nature of man. She seems totally unaware of what the German historians and theologians refer to as the “Sitz im Leben”, the contextual setting in life of the event in question. The bomb cut short the war drastically in time and in lives lost on both sides. My own father was slated to be in the first wave of the invasion force. I may well not have been here had that invasion gone forward. Japan started the war, not us. Had we not been attacked at Pearl Harbor, there would have been no war, no bomb. You reap what you sew. In its full historical context (which the writer conveniently ignores) conscientious and moral reservations about the bomb were virtually non-existant. The existance of the bomb and the policy of MAD kept us from an even greater slaughter during the Cold War. Do I wish there were no such thing as war? Yes. Do I wish that humanity were more altruistic? Yes. Do I think that the bomb took away the morality of a people who beforehand were morally pure? How absurd. We are a people who had already purged a continent of its native population, brutally enslaved, used, abused, and tortured African slaves, and fought a war far more vicious than WWII to settle that issue. The bomb was horriffic, but it brought to a swift and sudden conclusion an unimmaginable carnage begun by Japan nearly two decades earlier. The Japanese had been a ruthless and bloodthirsty aggressor with all its Pacific neighbors for a long time. The bomb fundamentally changed an entire civilization from warmonger to pacifist. Those who mourn some loss of innocence in August of 1945 are about as enlightened as those who mourn the loss of another civilization “gone with the wind” in 1865.

  • Do It Again

    President Truman did the right thing. My father was set to go to the Pacific when the bomb was dropped. If he had gone, chances are I probably would not have known him because he would have been killed. The casualties in Hiroshima and Nagasaki would have been insignificant compared to the number of U.S. military that would have died invading Japan.It is unfortunate that civilians are involved in war. But this is, and has been, the nature of war. There are no innocents in war.Japan decided to begin the war with us and we ended it. If we hadn’t beat Germany in May, hopefully the bomb would have been dropped there too.No apologies from this man. Morality had nothing to do with it.I perused the post on this column and noticed that you have the usual “wingnuts” taking most of the space. Yawn!

  • Tom Horrigan

    An old debate, but it is one where some never consider the alternatives. Are you aware that the Japanese were causing the deaths of over 100,000 Asians (in China, Indochina, Philipines, etc) per MONTH in 1945. So if the US had not ended the war in August 1945, another million Asians would have died by the following summer. How moral would that have been?

  • johng1

    Yes, this was an awful article. Like something an eight grader would write. Havng read most of the comments above, I have nothing further to add but my thanks to our former presidents who used the bomb wisely with respect to Japan. And God bless Curtis LeMay!

  • Joe

    Have you ever seen a picture of the huge Gyeongbok Palace in Seoul? The palace was originally constructed in 1394 by Jeong Do-jeon, a Korean architect. The palace was burnt down during the Japanese invasions of Korea (1592-1598). It was reconstructed during 1860s as a massive 330 building complex with 5,792 rooms. Standing on 4,414,000 square feet (410,000 square meters) of land, it was a symbol of majesty for the Korean people and the home of the royal family. In 1911, the government of Japan demolished all but 10 buildings during the period of Korea under Japanese rule, constructing the Japanese General Government Building for the Governor-General of Korea in front of the throne hall.Almost every Korean cultural monument was destroyed or sent to Japan during this time.The world knows, but Japan refuses to fully acknowledge, what happened to the thousands of Korean woman sent to serve the armies of Japan.You have not seen photos of the full Gyeongbok Palace as the Japanese forbid any visual memory of the palace to be preserved as they were in the process of destroying it.How would you feel about the manner of the ending of WW2 if your society were under Japanese rule?Even the Nazis did not destroy Versailles or the Vatican.

  • Joe

    Have you ever seen a picture of the huge Gyeongbok Palace in Seoul? The palace was originally constructed in 1394 by Jeong Do-jeon, a Korean architect. The palace was burnt down during the Japanese invasions of Korea (1592-1598). It was reconstructed during 1860s as a massive 330 building complex with 5,792 rooms. Standing on 4,414,000 square feet (410,000 square meters) of land, it was a symbol of majesty for the Korean people and the home of the royal family. In 1911, the government of Japan demolished all but 10 buildings during the period of Korea under Japanese rule, constructing the Japanese General Government Building for the Governor-General of Korea in front of the throne hall.Almost every Korean cultural monument was destroyed or sent to Japan during this time.The world knows, but Japan refuses to fully acknowledge, what happened to the thousands of Korean woman sent to serve the armies of Japan.You have not seen photos of the full Gyeongbok Palace as the Japanese forbid any visual memory of the palace to be preserved as they were in the process of destroying it.How would you feel about the manner of the ending of WW2 if your society were under Japanese rule?Even the Nazis did not destroy Versailles or the Vatican.

  • JL

    I think most commentators are missing the point. I don’t think the question is the morality of the act in light of the existing circumstances, it is more how that awful event (regardless of justification, it was still an awful event) has possibly inured us to violent acts that we may have found objectionable prior to our doing this. After all, this country has invalidated the Geneva Conventions, will not disavow torture, and reacts to Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo will some mild discomfort, but no more. We attribute it to 9/11, yet we held to those principles after Pearl Harbor, where 2400 were killed and 1400 wounded. This is a valid question, first posed by Ghandi. Perhaps that was when we lost our moral center.

  • Scott B. Williams

    No one would have heard of Hiroshima or Nagasaki if it hadn’t been for Pearl Harbor. The souls of hundreds of thousands of our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines are still instact because of the fact we chose to drop the Bomb instead of sending these men to certain slaughter by storming Japan.If anyone should feel any guilt it is the Japanese. They thought they could take over the world, but instead woke a sleeping giant who properly put them back in their place.Spare me the crap about what is permissable for one human being to do to another. I hear about Abu Ghraib, but where is the author when the Taliban cut people’s heads off? Where is the author when islamic suicide bombers blow up innocent civilians? I am secure in the fact that at least our system holds people accountable instead of believing that cutting off a person’s head will guarantee me a place in heaven with 72 virgins.The author needs to worry more about her soul and less about our nation’s.

  • Mighty7

    Jacob Jozevz :Man, your posts read like a very sacrry version of Dr. Brower’s Soap labels.Bizarr-o-matic for sure.And Jesus was man, no God. Ignorant those who claim otherwise.

  • Richard Morris

    I look forward to reading your novel. It sounds very insightful. One of my favorite quotes from Ghandi: “an eye for an eye, and soon the whole world is blind.” This was my line is a play, called, “A Symphony for Peace”. Rita A. Weinstein has taken the words of Albert Camus, Cesar Chavez, Mohandas K. Gandhi, Emma Goldman, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Congressman Dennis J. Kucinich and Count Leo Tolstoy and composed “A Symphony of Peace.” Come hear the voices of peace. Let this symphony touch your heart and inspire your actions. Join us in claiming Peace now! Albert Camus (1913-1960). French novelist, essayist, and playwright, received the 1957 Nobel Prize for literature. Joined the French resistance movement during the German occupation during World War II. Cesar Chavez (1927-1993). Founder of the United Farm Workers union. Beginning in 1965 led boycotts and fasts in order to raise American awareness and create better working conditions for farm workers. Mohandas K. Gandhi (1869-1948). Considered by many to be the founding father of the modern state of India. Pioneered the use of nonviolent resistance to achieve revolution. Assassinated 1948.Emma Goldman (1869-1940). Activist, socialist, feminist. Advocated the use of violence early in her career, changed her position after witnessing the brutality of the Bolshevik revolution.Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1921-1968) Founder and President of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Central figure in the American civil rights movement. Winner 1965 Nobel Peace Prize. Assassinated 1968. Congressman Dennis J. Kucinich. (b. 1946) Recipient of the International Gandhi Peace award in 2003, the year he led a coalition of 126 Congress members in opposition to the invasion of Iraq. Twice introduced legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives to establish a cabinet-level Department of Peace.Count Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910). Russian novelist and philosopher considered one of the world’s greatest writers. Influenced strongly by Thoreau’s “Civil Disobedience”. Tolstoy, in turn, wrote essays that laid the foundations of Gandhi’s philosophy of nonresistance.

  • Luke

    Scott, are you ignorant enough to believe bombing a MILITARY TARGET justifies laying waste to two ENTIRELY CIVILIAN ONES? Bravo Scott.

  • Phil Smith

    Nora:I commented earlier… and have this to add:Everybody who commented here were people of faith. They self-selected to this NYT web page because they are curious.Almost without fail, each found your pitch to be disingenuous and hypocritical. Nora, you’ve got some soul-searching to do. And in my opinion, the NYT did a rotten job allowing you to pitch this garbage. Nora… your article is all about you.

  • JMS

    It’s fascinating to watch people apply current morality to historical events, and wonder, “how could we/they do that?” It’s clear that the Nora has no real sense of History, or what would actually have been involved had the Allies NOT used the Atomic bomb, and instead had invaded the Japanese Home Islands. Operation Downfall was expected to produce roughly 1.2million casualites, with 250,000 dead. This figure only includes Allied servicemen. Japanese civilian figures would have been well into the millions!Nora’s figures regarding the firebombing of Japanese cities suggest that firebombing was relatively benign vis a vis atomic weapons, when in fact, it was not. For example, the firebombing of Tokyo on March 9, 1945 destroyed 16 Square miles of the city, and killed as many as 100,000 people. Therefore, suggesting that fireboming was OK, and atomic bombing was somehow morally corrupting is quite a moral stretch indeed, if the results were the same in the end, particularly considering how many Japanese cities were firebombed.Before denouncing acts of the past, as “amoral” and “corrupting”, it would be far wiser to attempt to see things as the folks who made the decisions saw them, and the consequences of not only their acts, but of their inaction. In this case, Nora is so busy pitching her fear of atomic weapons and her book, that she fails to consider that things were different back then.

  • Rosie Scenaraio

    You should go back and read “Typhoon of Steel” (history of the Okinawa campaign), and review Japan’s preparations for invasion before judging the A-bombs as excessive.

  • Rosie Scenaraio

    You should go back and read “Typhoon of Steel” (history of the Okinawa campaign), and review Japan’s preparations for invasion before condemning the A-bombs.

  • andy richardson

    Until I read James Bradley’s book “Flyboys”, I also thought that the atom bomb was a turning point in our country’s morality. However, his research is clear that before we started fire-bombing cities in Germany and Japan, we had condemned such practices by our enemies. What we find out is that our national morality is situational… what FDR once labeled as “barbarian” when done by the Japanese in China, we were happily doing by the end of the war to Japan under his leadership.Our country’s soul is fine so long as our enemies are not wining the war.

  • Ed Curlett

    Very interesting take on the atom bombing of Japan. I suspect it did erode the soul of our nation to some extent. If such a thing as a national soul exists. I guess the alternative, invasion of Japan and the death of hundreds of thousands of young Americans (needlessly?) and the wounding of hundreds of thousands of more and perhaps a more complete destruction of Japan would have enabled us to to maintain the moral high ground? I don’t know. I’m glad the war ended when it did. My grandfather may have been killed had it gone on longer and I would not be here.

  • Andrew S.

    “Finally, what is the connection between Hiroshima and Guantanamo, Hiroshima and Abu Ghraib?”What pretentious drivel.

  • Kacoo

    What did Japan do between Hiroshima and Nagasaki that justified Nagasaki? With Nagasaki, America erased all the excesses of Japan by out-doing the extreme cruelty of the Imperial Army of Japan.

  • The Father of All Republicans

    Would God approve dropping atomic bombs on Houston, Tallahassee and Washington to punish the loyal Bushies for their evil? According to God, the answer is yes.

  • donbl

    Three points:1. Truman saved 500,000 American lives that would have been lost by an invasion. This was the US Military’s estimate that caused Truman to drop the bomb.2. If the US had not dropped it and shown the inhumanity of the weapon, someone would have used a nuke later…….. Hiroshima and Nagasaki maybe saved NYC and Moscow. We fear a terrorist nuclear weapon today because of the nukes dropped on Japan….3. I worked with a Japanese who lived in Hiroshima and was 7 when the bomb was dropped. I met him later in life (age 55) when he worked in America for a large Japanese company. He was pro-American and his kids now live here…….A fine gentleman. I was so shocked when I realized what his home town was that I was at a loss for words. I was embarrassed. He was not bitter nor vindictive. Just a fine gentleman who had comes to grips with the horror and outgrown it and raised fine kids.

  • Buzz

    I have a hard time getting worked up over this. Just study the battles of Okinawa and Iwo Jima. These were but pale precursors of what a battle for Japan would be. Millions would have died, both military and civilian. The entire country would have been devastated, not just two cities.The atomic bomb was no secret. Hitler was well on his way to building one before he was defeated. The Soviets were trying desperately, too, and got considerable help from the Rosenbergs. If we didn’t use the bomb in 1945, the world would still have gone nuclear in a very short time.And remember, finally, who started this war.

  • Daniel Miller

    We shouldn’t have done it.

  • Paul Leber

    Let’s put this politically correct piece of sophomoric sentimentality in perspective. The atomic bomb was not only more efficient than incendiaries, but it was effective, ending a war in which Japan had, as a matter of military policy, enslaved and murdered millions. It’s important to remember not only Pearl Harbor, but Comfort Women, the Bataan Death March, the Nanking Massacre of 1937-38, etc. Viewed in context, the use of the Bomb was not only sensible, but moral.

  • Eugene

    There is no connection between Hiroshima and GTMO, and Hiroshima and Abu Ghraib. The enormity of death and destruction of Hiroshima–the death and destruction of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilian non-combatants-is on an entirely different moral plane than the amateurish stupidity of GTMO and Abu Ghraib, most of whose victims are still alive.

  • Islamist

    John HorriganAs for numbers, more people died in Asia due to their nationalist independence movements and internal insurgencies for it than the Japanese occupation of the Asian lands. Maoist China killed more of its people in the Long March and the Cultural Revolution than by Japanese occupation. More Vietnamese are killed by the Vietnam War for reunification than by Japanese occupation. More Burmese died under the reign of the Burmese junta than by Japanese occupation. JohnG1The power of the atomic bomb and now the nuclear bomb makes everyone wants to have one. Japan don’t have it, but North Korea do have it. Japan has the capability to build one, but don’t as yet. Ever heard of NPT? What makes Americans think only they have the sole right to use atomic bombs and nukes on others? To cluster bomb, carpet bomb, smart targett bombings and not expect others not to want to have the same capabilities? Ban the bomb for all and not just for those already in the declared nuclear club, and the undeclared ones as well, the non-signitories of IAEA NPT.Every time a bomb goes off, the souls of the bomber and the bombed are ravaged, lost or are in limbo. If American taxpayers are willing to pay for nukes to be used somewhere, and the US have the most nukes in the world, so be it. The US have more money and better brains to create the best and most immediate ways for death and destruction. Will worldwide Armageddon begins and end with the US, the god of total global destruction with the power to do so? A new idea? No. Thinking this “unthinkable” has been going on from the Cold War. A new one coming. The US agreed to sell multibillion dollars worth of military hardware, but no nukes, to several Middle East countries and to increase annual assistnce to Israel to $3 billion per year. More wars and bombs there, and maybe a nuke blast or two in the future? What are they thinking? Arming or rearming in the Middle East? Is it just business for the military industrial complex in the US supported by US government, in a drive for no more wars there?

  • Kerry

    The only difference between the horror of atomic bombs and conventional bombs is that vast amount of instataneous damage they cause.Why not focus on the horror of the numerous Australian and U.S. troop beheadings in the South Pacific. How about the Japanese crucifixions of Aussi nurses and troops. Hum, the Bataan Death March.Additionally, what about the medical experiments on human subjects by both the Japanese and Germans.War and what humans do to each other is often hideous, but has been with us throughout human history, along with the numerous acts of human charity and kindness.What bothers me most regarding liberal and the very faithful, is that they often “turn their cheeks” to the genocides inflicted upon humans and excuse it. Many even excused Stalin as he was doing what he thought best for most of the masses. What he did was inexcusable, as was Hitler’s Holocaust.How about you slam, we all slam the bad guys in print and quit cowering.

  • GJO’L

    I paged through some of these comments but didn’t get through all of them. At some point different people have said the same thing again and again.Nora, I do hope you read this far. I want to commend you for a thought-provoking article. I am not that inclined to read the book, sorry to say. But your article was thought-provoking.I guess I have to agree with a poster named Nick Lappos above. In asking whether we lost our soul as a nation by dropping the bombs, you have, I think, ignored the context and the reality of that time. If you haven’t read it, I recommend you read “Flags of Our Fathers.” Forget the movie — read the book.It is hard for a modern-day audience to understand what was happening in the United States, and in the war, by the summer of 1945. We get upset now when a helicopter crashes and eight troops die in a day. Well, try several thousand deaths in a single day, and not of volunteer professional soldiers, but of conscripts. Those are the reports that were coming back from Iwo Jima in February 1945. And why? Because the leadership of Japan chose a path. They would fight to the death to defend their homeland. Their strategy was to inflict the maximum number of casualties on the Allied forces. They would not surrender unconditionally. To get the best settlement possible, they increased the stakes. Iwo Jima was a frightful message to our country about the consequences Japan was planning if we were to push our objective of disarming and defeating Japan, fully. I recently visited the museum at Japan’s national shrine for its war dead in Tokyo. The museum certainly expresses an alternative perspective, and one that hasn’t changed. According to the display on Iwo Jima, the Japanese defense of Iwo Jima was a victory for Japan because the mass casualties on the U.S. side hastened the willingness of the U.S. to end the war. Really, that is what it says at that museum. Honest.So we gave them a response that by today’s morals is very, very questionable. I’m just not sure it was as questionable under the circumstances of the time. I think your suggestion that we lost our soul as a nation is an exaggeration. Nora, I also think that by raising that question, and by glossing over the very real events of the time, you have minimized Japan’s culpability in the deaths of the innocents at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I’m not sure we, or Japan, or any of the Allies, or any of the Axis nations had a “soul” during this conflict, the likes of which are unimaginable to this generation. I think each of us warring nations had a survival instinct. I don’t know that we ought to expect any of them to have had more than that until this nightmare finally ended.Thank you for your essay.

  • Brendan Reilly

    President Truman had to decide between losing thousands of American lives in a protracted and costly invasion of Japan whose leadership had exhorted its populace to defend the homeland at all costs and dropping the bomb to quickly bring the war to an end. He made the right choice. It always strikes me as odd when voices denounce the use of the atomic bomb yet remain muffled regarding the Allies’ firebombing of Dresden and Tokyo, which resulted in more civilian casualties.

  • Islamist

    EugeneConsider what? That all Muslims be punished for the acts of Muslims terrorists that also kill them? Nothing to consider except for some absurd Americans here connecting speciously which cities should be nuked in retaliations. Some posters here insisted that bombing Japanese civilians in Hiroshima and Nagasake is moral and right in response to what the Japanese army did in Asia. This as absurb as excusing Muslim suicide bombers killing civilians in response to what Israel did. To bomb Afghanistan and its civilians back to the stone age for what Osama did. To invade and occupy Iraq for what Osama did.

  • Athena

    I know someone who was in the Pacific, preparing for the immanent invasion of Japan before the Bomb was dropped. He’s forever grateful that the invasion was stopped. I think that our national soul was damaged not when we dropped those two bombs, but when we continued to make them afterwards. Truman should have seen the results of this destruction and said, “no more.” Dismantled the whole thing, and charged the newly-formed UN to outlaw nuclear weapons. Allow only nuclear power for peaceful purposes – if that. But, hindsight is 20/20.

  • Kerry

    The only difference between the horror of atomic bombs and conventional bombs is that vast amount of instataneous damage they cause.Why not focus on the horror of the numerous Australian and U.S. troop beheadings in the South Pacific. How about the Japanese crucifixions of Aussi nurses and troops. Hum, the Bataan Death March.Additionally, what about the medical experiments on human subjects by both the Japanese and Germans.War and what humans do to each other is often hideous, but has been with us throughout human history, along with the numerous acts of human charity and kindness.What bothers me most regarding liberal and the very faithful, is that they often “turn their cheeks” to the genocides inflicted upon humans and excuse it. Many even excused Stalin as he was doing what he thought best for most of the masses. What he did was inexcusable, as was Hitler’s Holocaust.How about you slam, we all slam the bad guys in print and quit cowering.

  • Jihadist

    Islamist:)Give it up my friend. Some Americans don’t know the histories of other countries too well. Some do. China and Korea do take exception on Japanese atrociitses committed during World War II. But these neighbours of Japan have a very long history of disputes and wars. Yes, Chinese atrocities against their own people throughout history is worst, but that is the point. It would seem to be all right for people to kill their own, but not foreigners. God help us all. My Umra’s going on well but too hot here. No, Mecca and Medina was not nuked as yet. If it is being nuked, I won’t be able to tell the difference with the body melting and physically debilitating heat I’m experiencing right now in Mecca:)Time for the Umra rites again.Be well and salam. J

  • Jake Zilber

    Concentrating on the individual is fine however it is very subjective. You have concentrated on the girl with the painted nails and the man who longs for big cities. How cute. And Oppenheimer made booze. How clever. God has no time to deal with the individual. If he did then thousands of children would not have perished in the Holocaust, nor in any other holocaust. What was the purpose for that, God? Man has adopted God for his own selfish use but God has been cleverer than to fall for it – He keeps with His cosmic work and man goes crazy when things don’t fall into the “right” place. Like when innocents perish. I was in the museum in Hiroshima. It does present the destruction and the suffering of the Japanese people but it does that without connection to anything else. It is as if one day, a bomb came from nowhere and wiped out the city and its people. There is no background, no mention of how the war started, of the millions of people who suffered in the hands of the Japanese, of all the cities that were destroyed by them. I left the museum disappointed but proud, proud of all of those people who have worked so hard to make the bomb a success, and it was a success. It brought a miserable war and suffering for millions to an end. If one wants to concentrate on the individual then I would suggest discussing an individual U.S. infantryman in Germany at the time of the bomb. He has just finished a grueling war and is about to be shipped to the Pacific to participate in the upcoming invasion of Japan. The odds of his survival are not great. It is estimated that there will be a million military casualties and that millions of Japanese civilians will die as well. And then suddenly, one bomb and millions are saved – American and Japanese. Not bad for one bomb.

  • jaypem

    There is one museum you did not mention having visited – the National D-Day and WWII museum in New Orleans. There on a wall you can read the scale of the U.S. invasion that was planned for the Japanese mainland – many times the size of D-Day, with many times the number of casualties on both sides. There is no doubt in my mind that Truman did the right thing even for Japan (even if he did it for many of the wrong reasons).And one more thing that no one discusses — without the full demonstration of the horrible consequences of nuclear weapons, are we really so sure the Cold War would have ended without either side initiating a nuclear exchange, just because one side wondered if nuclear weapons were really all that bad, compared to, say, backing down over Berlin or Cuba?Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib have more to do with the corruption of leaders (not soldiers) who think they can do anything while on their “mission from God,” than with the corruption of America’s soul brought on by Hiroshima.

  • sixth commandment

    Read me!

  • jaypem

    There is one museum you did not mention having visited – the National D-Day and WWII museum in New Orleans. There on a wall you can read the scale of the U.S. invasion that was planned for the Japanese mainland – many times the size of D-Day, with many times the number of casualties on both sides. There is no doubt in my mind that Truman did the right thing even for Japan (even if he did it for many of the wrong reasons).And one more thing that no one discusses — without the full demonstration of the horrible consequences of nuclear weapons, are we really so sure the Cold War would have ended without either side initiating a nuclear exchange, just because one side wondered if nuclear weapons were really all that bad, compared to, say, backing down over Berlin or Cuba?Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib have more to do with the corruption of leaders (not soldiers) who think they can do anything while on their “mission from God,” than with the corruption of America’s soul brought on by Hiroshima.

  • jaypem

    There is one museum you did not mention having visited – the National D-Day and WWII museum in New Orleans. There on a wall you can read the scale of the U.S. invasion that was planned for the Japanese mainland – many times the size of D-Day, with many times the number of casualties on both sides. There is no doubt in my mind that Truman did the right thing even for Japan (even if he did it for many of the wrong reasons).And one more thing that no one discusses — without the full demonstration of the horrible consequences of nuclear weapons, are we really so sure the Cold War would have ended without either side initiating a nuclear exchange, just because one side wondered if nuclear weapons were really all that bad, compared to, say, backing down over Berlin or Cuba?Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib have more to do with the corruption of leaders (not soldiers) who think they can do anything and answer to no one while on their “mission from God,” than with the corruption of America’s soul brought on by Hiroshima.

  • Dennis

    All:

  • sixth commandment

    Read me!

  • Carl

    Well, Abu Ghraib was a fairly minor event-at least when one looks at the convicted, England and Graner, who basically used prisoners are actors to be photographed. The man who turned in Graner, Darby, described a helicopter that landed at night, and brought a prisoner, who was tortured and killed by the arrivals, who then left back into the night, with their chopper. Graner and England were left to photo the iced body, their smiles in the pictures leaving them with the blame of an act they did not create. Child’s play, certainly compared to Hiroshima.One must not forget, that Nations behave like a living organism, on a grand scale, even for all of the author’s cry for us to view the particular and not the grand picture0the human to the sky, the burning Japanese corpse to the American War machine.I will turn that around on the author. The Japanese government in 1945 was truly soulless and would have used an atomic bomb on the USA, had the Japanese been in possession of one. The Japanese organism, the government, used people like machines, to kill and torture on a grand scale. I think it is wishful thinking, to believe that the bomb dropped on Hiroshima was not useful in destroying this organism. The soulless America we see today is one born of greed power and corruption on a grand Federal level one that thinks it is okay to wiretap without warrants, and to waterboard terrorists, but these characteristics of absolute power that the federal government exercises on a daily basis are not born from a long ago use of nuclear weapons in Japan. And yes, I don’t think that the US “won” WW2, but it was a complicated situation that needed some response-perhaps not one that left the Soviet Union in a position to do what Germany and Japan failed to do, that is, destroy the US, but the US had to do something. The US does not have to be, and should not be, in Iraq, and there is the difference.

  • Curt Casey

    Nora:I understand and admire your premise. What is relevant to your question, however, is the relevance of war, any war, to the question. As a retired military aviator and combat veteran, I find the naiveté’ of some in the population exasperating. War, in my view, is man’s ultimate act of inhumanity towards other human beings: it is itself an immoral act. Whether based on greed, power, failure to address grievances through negotiations, it is the final breakdown in civility and morality of our species.War, once engaged, is the act of executing to achieve one’s objective as expeditously as practicable and with the least loss of life to one’s fighting forces. The Western nations carry this loss of life further by fighting wars within a defined set of rules, ostensibly, to limit collateral loss of life. Most Middle Eastern and Eastern cultures do not subscribe to such rules. (Some now do, including Japan) During WW II they did not. You will note that it took another hit on Nagasaki to force the Japanese to cease hostilities. Even then, the military did not want to end the war. The reason being that the word surrender is not in the Japanese language and the Bushido sect that was running the country could not abide such a thought. It took the emperor, a deity in Japan, to make an extraordinary speech on radio – never before done – to demand adherence to his wishes. In fact, he stated: “It is over”. The word surrender or “give up” was never mentioned, because the culture and mentality did not allow for that concept. What the atomic bomb allowed us to do was avoid another 2-3 years of fighting the Japanese across their island nation. It is estimated that another 150,000-200,000 US lives were saved, not to mention avoiding a similar loss of life by the Japanese people. It has always stuck me as odd that people could live with an airplane dropping 500 pound Mark 82 bombs singly or in a salvo of 4-8 over a period of many sorties in which the chances for more lives lost went up exponentially for the pilot and the belligerents against whom they were engaged. I believe what finally sinks into the human consciousness is the enormity of the devastation and chaos being wreaked upon human beings when the same destruction to the target(s) can be accomplished with a single weapon. In Japan, I believe the cause was just and appropriate given the circumstances at that time. Given events today, I do not believe we have learned many lessons.Thanks for listening,Curt

  • Dennis

    All:

  • Dave Bell

    The decision to drop the atomic bombs was correct and even through the revisionism of our history it is still is the right the decision. By dropping the bombs we saved US soldiers, sailors and Marines. Outstanding.

  • Islamist

    Jihadist!Did I not tell you to stay off the Net and focus fully on the spiritual in Mecca and Medina? This thread is interesting to know on American mindsets on war, peace, atomic bombs and souls of a people and nation. Theirs vs others. KerryAtrocities were also committed by the Allied troops during World War II but not reported. Winners decide on history. The Japanese largely leave western civilians interned the Japanese in horrendous camps, especially western women and children, many who died of diseases. America also interned Japanese living in the US during World War II but not Germans. Do I detect racism then as racism now with regard to Japanese as opposed to the worst German behavior and killings of civilians during the last great war? Should we nuke Cambodia and Soviet Union for the atrocities Pol Pot and Stalin commit on their own people which is worst than war with external forces? We were a bit late to stop genocides in Rwanda and Bosnia but no nukes used. The worst genocides are by the state with people like Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot in charge, against their own people. Like Eddie Izzard, a British comedian said, but in a black humour particular to him and better put in his own words but which I recall here as best as I can – “We tolerated Hitler killing his own people and go almost ‘Well done! You kill 100,000 of your own people? You must be very busy!’ But to invade another country and kill their citizens, after a couple of years, we won’t stand for it.”Cheers mate and good day.

  • Vladimir Guerrero

    Judgements are a part the circumstances of their time. While we can learn from history, we must refrain from extrapolating a judgement from our circumstances to those of another era, even if they should not stop us from learning from the past.

  • Neal Atkins

    The comparison of Hiroshima to “abu ghraib” is the same as fish to bicycles. Apples to zepplins. Morality in war? Marquis de Queensbury rules in a nuklear age? Are you insane? The purpose of war is to WIN! Winners write history. Losers die. Ask saddam. Idiocy. If you don’t like it, renounce your citizenship and move to Darfur and become a “citizen of the world”.

  • B. Kane

    Ms. Gallagher is lost in self-absorption. She needs to understand that Hiroshima was in a sense an ethical postscript. We abandoned our sense of morality in Feb., 1945 when we and the British reduced Dresden and its largely civilian population to ashes; then embarked alone upon the firebombing of several Japanese cities. One can argue convincingly either that Hiroshima and Nagasaki were barbarian acts or saved millions of lives; the point to remember is that by then morality was not a consideration in the action we took.

  • seattledodger

    george w bush sez that killing civilians is what bad people do. why does george w bush hate america?harry s truman ordered the attacks on innocent japanese civilians as a tactic to achieve his military aims and further his political cause.osama bin ladin ordered the attacks on innocent american civilians as a tactic to achieve his military aims and further his political cause.terrorist see, terroist do.note to self: save quotations from well-known conservative posters to re-use in the next abortion debate. can’t wait til someone mentions the ‘sanctity of life.’

  • B. Kane

    Ms. Gallagher is lost in self-absorption. She needs to understand that Hiroshima was in a sense an ethical postscript. We abandoned our sense of morality in Feb., 1945 when we and the British reduced Dresden and its largely civilian population to ashes; then embarked alone upon the firebombing of several Japanese cities. One can argue convincingly either that Hiroshima and Nagasaki were barbarian acts or saved millions of lives; the point to remember is that by then morality was not a consideration in the action we took.

  • Tom B

    Arminus makes the statement: “We never used the Bomb again, and we probably, God willing, never will.” On the contrary, humans probably will use the Bomb again, given our history. Our species is hurtling into the future at an accelerating pace, with no guidelines, little memory, and a primitive capacity to learn — or to imagine the chiling horrors we are ready and willing to fill our planet with. It’s a good idea to periodically re-read Kurt Vonnegut’s ‘Cat’s Cradle’, or Camus’ ‘The Plague’, or any of a score of other microscopes turned on the hardness of the human heart. With tens of thousands of nukes silently waiting, our clock is ticking, but we are all deaf. I just hope I die before our race destroys the 15,000-year-old civilization that so many men and women toiled to create. God (should he exist) did nothing to save the Jews from the Holocaust, nor the troops in the trenches during the Battle of the Somme, nor the millions who quietly died in the Great Congo War just a few years ago while the rest of the world quite successfully averted its gaze. The future of man is in the hands of man — and that is a nightmare scenario!

  • John M.

    I’ve enjoyed reading the opinions expressed in On Faith, regardless of how close or how far they’ve been from my own. But this post is the biggest piece of narrow-minded, slanted, hypersensitive whining that I’ve seen. Why is this even in the On Faith section? Because it renews my faith in the ability of people to lose their perspective and revise history, no matter what? And why do I have to hear about this woman’s novel? The idea of a link between Abu Gharib and Hiroshima is completely ridiculous, unless you plan on linking every bad thing that happened to everyone, everywhere, ever. There is a compelling argument to be made that Truman dropped the bomb to stop Stalin as much as Hirohito, but she certainly doesn’t bother making that here. That would require facts and discussion instead of teary-eyed complaining and weak-kneed apologizing. If you want to know more about the dropping of the bomb, read American Prometheus, not this.

  • A Reader

    “How did Hiroshima erode our sense of morality, what we permit ourselves as a nation to do?”Does this really refer to the nation that came close to wiping out the continent’s original population and utilized slaves for generations? I’m not convinced that the country was any more ‘moral’ before Hiroshima, or has been any worse since then.

  • Islamist

    Neal AtkinsAsking your fellow Americans to move to Darfur for having a more questioning view on use of atom bombs in wars and to end wars? Patriotism is the last resort of the scoundrel some would say. “America – love it or leave it!” Please don’t insult your fellow Americans. I have more respect for them than you. Yes, winners write history. Losers have nothing. Beyond that, what?B KaneMs. Gallagher is a novelist, not a historian. Novelists writes about the human soul and experience. Read more novels and we learn more about humans, not just from history books with statistics on numbers of casualties, military strategies, how many planes and tanks arrayed against humans. Start with Tolstoi’s “War and Peace” on strategy, morality, ethics and impact of war on humans, not Sun Tzu’s “Art of War” or Clausewitz’s “On War”. Cheers and good day mates

  • Dr S Banerji

    One of the worst horrors of Hiroshima is that free people have not changed the course of world affairs. Vietnam and Iraq are stark reminders that unholy alliances between politicians, bureaucrats, military personnel, and big business, can continue their destructive ways, while citizens look on helplessly or indifferently.

  • Duncan Stewart

    It amazes me when I read articles like this one of how little some people actually know or understand about our nation’s military history, or history in general. Or maybe its not a matter of ignorance at all. Maybe people just conventionally forget certain information in order to pursue their agendas. I guess you would have to ask a Marine, sailor, or soldier who fought in the Pacific theater why it was necessary to drop two atomic bombs on Japan. Their personal experience would be much better at explaining the terror surviving Banzai charges. American sailors on ships watching helplessly as the Japanese version of a “Divine Wind” sweeps down in the form of a Japanese Zero Fighters whose pilots crash them—quite willingly—into American ships. I’m sure many of those American servicemen were thinking, “Jeeez, if its like this on these little islands, what’s it going to be like when we land in Japan?” I guess there are thousands of American soldiers, sailors, and Marines…along with their families…who are quite happy that they never had to find out thanks to the atom bomb. If the soul of your so called “destroying” nation is damaged—and I have no doubt that it is—there are plenty of other more pertinent reasons why it is, and I don’t have time or word space to list them all. I can find plenty of sad chapters in this nation’s history without having to pick the one desperate attempt by an American President to bring a very bloody and costly war to an abrupt end.

  • Sunil Samanta

    What has happened to the soul of the destroying nation is still too early to see…

  • Bangalee Babu

    You speak about losing our sense of morality after fat boy fell.How naive!We lost our morality when we killed the Red Indians and usurped their land!

  • janye

    War is the tragedy. When ONE human being is killedHiroshima was a great tragedy for the JapaneseHowever, war means that one group of people decides that their main object is to kill as many of another group of people, their enemies, as possible. TheHiroshima was a HUGE SUCCESS. Just look how many people were killed! Japan gave up as well, didn’t

  • Anonymous

    The brutish, primitive nature of the “nuke ’em” crowd clogging this blog remind us that the infamous General Curtis LeMay, the author of the holocausts of the Dresden and Tokyo firebombing and the world’s first mass nuclear incinceration of civilian cities, was no isolated knuckle-dragger. He had lots of help. Many of those posting on this web page are living proof that LeMay’s insane “strategic bombing” ethos and vengeful “nuke ’em because we’re in the Right” creed was not some horrific human aberration but a mainstream pathology infecting the American psyche. Note well the testosteronic epithets these manly goobers deploy against their critics whom they would feminize: “teary-eyed, weak-kneed, complaining, whining, slanted, hypersensitive, losers, uninformed, impressionable, weirdo, ignorant”. The Japanese children, women and elders at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the goobers say, “got what was coming to them” (even if Hirohito and Japan’s senior military and warlords didn’t). No better evidence than these remarks exists to confirm the unhappy fact that to leave 13,000 nuclear warheads in the hands of a nation so infected with vulgar jingoism, cold callousness and historical illiteracy is gravely dangerous for the future of the world.

  • Islamist

    Mr. Duncan StewartThe Japanese war and warrior culture is different from Americans’. Don’t forget the families of soldiers from the other side too. Do you really think they want their menfolks to go to war, and be atomic-bombed in Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Yes, wars must be ended fast and cheaply to save more lives from being lost. With all the lessons on the cost of war and the price all have to pay as winners and losers in resources and on our souls throughout history, we would think we learn something on how to prevent wars, but no and never will. Whoever said war is heaven? It is hell on earth. Just ask the American soldiers who survived Omaha Beach on D-Day, the Battle of the Bulge, the Vietnam War, the Iraq War. Cheers mate and exiting from this thread now.

  • Bret

    What in the world are you thinking? The Battle of Okinawa, which ended only 2 months earlier, claimed the lives of over 12,000 American Servicemen, not to mention the civilians on Okinawa. A land invasion of the Japanese mainland would have had similar results on a much larger scale. The bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were in my opinion ultimately humane in that up until then the Japanese military showed no signs of surrendering. I believe that although costly in human terms on the Japanese side, ultimately, the 2 atomic bombs probably saved at least 10 times as many Japanese lives as were lost in the A-bomb attacks, as the Japanese military sacrificed 66,000 soldiers in Okinawa, and showed a ruthless willingness to allow soldiers to fight to the death.

  • Alan Vanneman

    I found this article maudlin and meaningless. Does Ms. Gallagher think that all war is wrong? The Japanese killed literally millions of Chinese civilians in their occupation of that country. And, with regard to her “theology,” if God cares about each particular life, why is human history so bloody. Where is Ms. Gallagher’s God? Far removed from us, I would say.

  • C. Vann

    …And what do you suppose the Japanese would have done had they had the bomb?

  • Anonymous

    It didn’t affect our soul as a nation, it was an expression of our soul as a nation: use greater technology to brutalize and subjugate those who resist our hegemony. Note that we used WMD during the genocide of the Native Americans in the form of small pox. As more people speak out against these abhorrent activities, we develop still greater technology that both masks the reality from ourselves and increases the efficiency with which we can kill our enemies.It’s not just America. Humans have always used the advantages at their disposal to monopolize the resources of their environment. Modern technologies enable greater reach than a club or spear, but we use them in the same way with the same objectives: what’s mine is mine and what’s yours is mine. America is just the latest, greatest example of empire in action.

  • C. Vann

    …And what do you suppose the Japanese would have done had they had the bomb?

  • C. Vann

    …And what do you suppose the Japanese would have done had they had the bomb?

  • Paul

    Do you suppose that President Bush would agree with Truman’s decision to drop the bomb? Would he agree with the justification that it is morally permissible to take an action whereby we would probably kill fewer people by dropping the bomb than going through with a full scale invasion of Japan?Is it fair to apply this same reasoning to the issue of stem cell research? That the use of harvested cells from already aborted fetuses to find cures for a myriad of diseases is morally permissible because many lives might be saved and the greater good would be served?

  • Tom Gleason

    Doesn’t anyone remember Clausewitz theories of war – or as a famous Civil War, southern general state most succinctly – “Get thar fustest with the mostest”? Listen the Japs brought the bomb on themselves – they stared the war – Harry Truman ended it – we’ve benefitted from relative peace ever since – and the LIBS HAVE THE FREEDOM TO REMAIN IGNORANT of history, and politics, and war is a “Kill or be killed” situation – remember Jack London’s book?

  • Kirby Mohr

    Harry Truman said he decided to use the bomb because otherwise he could not have faced the mothers of Americans killed in an invasion of Japan. Perhaps it should be considered that those who do not want their cities bombed and people killed should not start wars.All wars are generally bad, and that one was over sooner because of the power of the bomb and it is likely to have discouraged Stalin from further expansion in Europe.

  • David

    I believe the primary reason most individuals do not seriously ponder the effects of using nuclear weapons is that we are so far removed from that time, that younger generations only know, as you say, the statistics. These are indeed horrific in themselves however, I believe the impact of such a horrible event is lost because our history books are censored in such a way that high school history courses only show images of the obligatory mushroom cloud and the desolate aftermath of the cities. Unfortunately to have more of an impact students would have to be exposed to more graphic and horrifying pictures of the real effects on the people that were irreparably injured and maimed by the use of nuclear weapons. The old adage a picture says a thousand words is ever more true in this case. An example of this is when I visited the Holocaust museum in Washington DC for the first time. The images I saw and displays I was witness to were to say the least eye opening. It wasn’t until I was exposed to the uncensored facts and images of these atrocities, was I truly affected by these events that happened some 60 years earlier. Seeing and reading about these events with not only images, but personal effects of the murdered made me ill, as it should. If we can some how deliver home this sort of message, not only to students, but everyone, I believe that we will finally begin to have an understanding, or at least empathy for the events that transpired in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

  • tom Gleason

    The President has the authority in the Constitution and has the option to choose to use nukes it he deems it necessary to successfully defend America!!!! Unquestionalbly.listen – we capitalized on using the European scientists to develop the bomb in a race (and Stalin had spies in the program, and when Truman told him about the magic weapon – Stalin already new everything about it!!!) before the enemy did us in – and now the damn terrorist threante us and they can walk across an open border and nuke us!!! Where’s Chertoff? Hiding in a bunker?Harvesting new stem cell research is morally wrong – we’ve lost 40 americans due to abortion – these people could have filled in the jobs the damn mexicans are taking away for us. AND ADDED TO THE GDP.

  • Thomas

    As has been pointed out, the attack on Hiroshima was not the single worst attack Japan suffered at the hands of American airpower.More Japanese civilians were killed during the single nighttime jelled gasoline incendiary attack of March 10, 1945, ordered by General Curtis LeMay, and its resultant firestorms which leveled 16.7 square miles of Tokyo. 100,00 were killed outright and several hundred thousands injured, many more than as a result of the Hiroshima bomb. Why not talk about that episode? Conventional incendiary attacks caused far more causulties and devastation than either nuclear attack. Why is it that you focus on the nuclear attack on Hiroshima rather than the firebombing attack on Tokyo which killed more in a single night? Which is more morally questionable?63 Japanese cities were burned to the ground by incendiary devices. These sum total of these attacks make the causulties suffered in Hiroshima and Nagasaki pale in comparison, even after five years, or ten.The “soul of the nation” had to come to terms with a new and awesome responsibility – as keeper of the nuclear flame. However, as a result of accepting that responsibility, America was able to bring the war in the Pacific to a successful conclusion and put an end to numerous Japanese attrocities, all without more American servicemen being killed. The acceptance of responsibility for and use of nuclear weapons was and remains today, in my opinion, an acceptable price to have paid. And it is because we understand the power of those weapons that their future use will not be decided upon lightly.Remember what LeMay said, “All war is immoral, and if you let that bother you, then you’re not a good soldier.” One has to understand a fact which is hard to grasp today: America was involved in total war with a fierce and fanatical enemy, one which was commonly accepted as less than human – watch the old newsreels to see. I do not grieve for those Japanese killed, and I do not believe it is proper for Americans to do so today. The deaths of residents of Hiroshima had been decided upon by the Japanese Emperor and the Japanese military long before Little Boy or Fat Man were invented. Their blood is on the hands of their leaders who lead them into war, not on ours who were called upon to end it.Los Alamos and the Atomic Bomb have already been covered throughly in at least two very detailed books by Richard Rhodes, and many of original declassified LANL documents are available on the web at http://www.fas.org.I would argue that our use of nuclear weapons has heightened our sense of morality, certainly not eroded it in any way. We have fifty years of relative world peace as evidence of that. Yes, we did let the nuclear genie out of the bottle. But it was inevitible that someone would. Just be glad it was America and not the Germans or the Japanese first. I’m glad to accept the burden of nuclear weapons possession and their first use because I trust this nation to act as a rational and sane trusted guardian of those weapons; we are a nation which understands the burden first hand. Would you have rather it have been the Japanese emperor nuking San Francisco or Hitler nuking London or New York? I think not.

  • Awheck

    What a slease way to sell a book. Sometimes I think it would have been better to let people like you be the welcoming committee for the Japanese soliders coming peacefully ashore in California. Maybe you would have been luckly enough or have felt morally obligated to meet a friendly solider who would have made you a nice sex object and fed you with a bowl of rice.

  • newageblues

    what a good question. It should have led us to humility, but that’s not the American way.

  • David Whittall

    Miss Gallagher – if you had been, as I was, a man aged 18 years, faced with the prospect that he and his friends would have to fight the Japanese in their own islands in 1945, you might have said “Hallelujah” when the bomb was dropped.

  • Peter Brawley

    What is the connection between Hiroshima and Guantanamo, Hiroshima and Abu Ghraib? The same as the connection with slavery; with the extermination of American Indians; with the invasion of Mexico; with the invasion of the Philippines and the slaughter of hundreds of thousands or Filipinos there; with the invasion of Vietnam and many other countries; with the violent bringing down of fifty other governments in the last 60 years; with US crime and incarceration rates higher than any other developed industrial democracy.The connection is: not enough limits in the US on barbaric violence. And not nearly enough guilt about it.

  • Anonymous

    ThomasBetter to nuke them than they nuke us? They may be thinking the same thing. Go and visit the Hiroshima War Memorial to see the differences between firebombings’ and atomic bomb’s impact on civilians. No one suffered radiation sickness, got cancer or gave birth to deformed children from fire bombs.

  • dave

    From a religious and spiritual standpoint, the notion that God’s creatures must settle their differences and treat each other in a manner consistent with the Barbarism of World War 2 is abhorent. God made us better than the behavior men displayed toward each other in the war, which means everything from Kamakazies to Sneak Attacks to Atomic Bombs is inherently un-Godlike.To argue the nuclear bombs dropped on Japan in World War 2 is morally more illegitimate than conventional types of warfare completely misses the point. When we resort to was as a first choice in settling human differences, we reject our Christianity. For this reason alone, I can’ think God is going to look at us and suggest we were more or less evil because we used nuclear rather than conventional weapons.For each of the combatants, I rather believe God will look at us and ask whether we tried to uphold the dignity of His creation. Whether when we made decisions, whether we considered the inherent humanity of our friends and our enemies and considered actions that would achieve our’s and His objectives with minimal loss of life and human dignity.Whether God is judging Harry Truman or General MacArthur or even Tojo and the Emperor, I suspect God will be looking from a perspective none of us have — inside their hearts and souls. The soulful consideration of His (or Her) will should be paramount.

  • Thomas

    Anon,The weapons’ impact on civilians wasn’t a great consideration at the time for the effects of radiation on genetic mutation were not understood and the Japanese were considered less than human and radiation causulties were still just causulties. But after the experience bombing Hiroshima and Nagasaki the effects were quickly understood, which is why I say our morality certainly has not lessened, if anything we understand the effects and shoulder the burden that much more.So are you implying that one form of destruction is less moral than the other? That dying from massive organ failure after having your skin burned off is somehow more moral than dying from acute radiation poisoning?Lest you forget, all war is immoral.Thomas

  • Allen Smith

    The Japanese are now claiming that the Rape of Nanking never happened;I suggest talking to a few people who can remember the end of WWII. To quote

  • Em

    My father was a sailor aboard the U.S.S. West Virginia on December 7, 1941, when the United States was attacked by Japan. He was reported Killed In Action, and a memorial services was held for him. It was only later that he was found alive. My father fought in the Pacific throughour much of WW II, a war that was begun by the nation of Japan. I was alive at that time, a small daughter waiting for her father to return from war. I am so very sorry that Japanese civilians were maimed and killed by the use of the atomic bomb, but I was very glad to have the war over and my father home safely with us. By the way, my father attended the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association reunion in Honolulu last December. While there, he shook the hand of a crew man on the Japanese plane that bombed his ship. He said it was not easy, but he recognized that each of them had served his country. The Japanese people allowed their leaders and their military to engage in atrocities throughout the Pacific and in Asia. Americans whho were not alive at that time should take care about judging the actions of those who were responsible for the lives of our military men and women who were fighting a “just” war, having been attacked without provocation.

  • James Clune

    Dear Ms. GallagherIn order to “erode” our morlity, one must assume Americans had a moral compass in the 1st place. Any objective reading of American History would show that the bombing of Hiroshima etc. was in a long line of American traditions.

  • Eon Mullet

    1. Japan attacked us first. They picked the fight.If you want to talk about senseless destruction of life, start with the Japanese treatment of:To hold America as the bad guy in the tragedy that was World War II is a pathetic joke and an insult to all who gave their lives to end the threat of fascism. Droping the atomic bomb on Japan was not a good or happy decision, but it was undeniably the only one the Japanese permitted. What were we going to do? Lose a million Americans and every single Japanese in their nation during an invastion? We were (and still are) the good guys. We ended the fighting and dying that otherwise would have continued and claimed more lives.

  • Eon Mullet

    1. Japan attacked us first. They picked the fight.If you want to talk about senseless destruction of life, start with the Japanese treatment of:To hold America as the bad guy in the tragedy that was World War II is a pathetic joke and an insult to all who gave their lives to end the threat of fascism. Dropping the atomic bomb on Japan was not a good or happy decision, but it was undeniably the only one the Japanese permitted. What were we going to do? Lose a million Americans and every single Japanese in their nation during an invasion? We were (and still are) the good guys. We ended the fighting and dying that otherwise would have continued and claimed more lives.

  • Eon Mullet

    1. Japan attacked us first. They picked the fight.If you want to talk about senseless destruction of life, start with the Japanese treatment of:To hold America as the bad guy in the tragedy that was World War II is a pathetic joke and an insult to all who gave their lives to end the threat of fascism. Dropping the atomic bomb on Japan was not a good or happy decision, but it was undeniably the only one the Japanese permitted. What were we going to do? Lose a million Americans and every single Japanese in their nation during an invasion? We were (and still are) the good guys. We ended the fighting and dying that otherwise would have continued and claimed more lives.

  • Mary Cunningham

    Wisdom usually councils allowing the past its own integrity. In any case, the gentleness of the current generation rests upon the exertions of the previous. If times were hard, we would revert to their decisions surprisingly quickly. Even if times are not hard: Bush II has reinstated torture and concentration camps. Dershowitz and the neos progress from advocating life sentences in lieu of execution to advocating torture in lieu of interogation.

  • DC Bill

    Author writes:”Several days after the bomb was dropped, reporters asked Gandhi what he thought. He said the atom bomb “resulted for the time being in destroying the soul of Japan. What has happened to the soul of the destroying nation is yet too early to see.” That question is what I have been turning over in my mind since completing this novel.”Gandhi understood that nations, like individuals, can not realize the consequences of their choices until fruition. However, the adage of “what goes around comes around” is not necessarily true nor applies in situations where the most difficult choices must be decided upon with prudent compassion to effect an outcome that is in the best interests of the majority…and that requires great wisdom, courage and strength from those leaders who are not predisposed to impluse nor indecision. Choosing (electing) a leader is the greatest responsibility of any citizen for it is ultimately the citizen who chooses the fate of its nation. The buck actually stops with the citizen.

  • Luke

    Eon Mullet. If your name doesn’t say it all, your comments certainly fill the rest in. Every nation involved in war thinks they are the good guy. Attacking a military target does not justify annihilating a civilian one, or are you saying that 9/11 was justified?

  • Devesh

    To Raymond Takashi:

  • John Tiedje

    Odd that you question the morality of the Hiroshima event without examining all the facts and context.They were arming the population with sharpened bamboo sticks to use against our bullets.Even after Hiroshima, is was only after the Russians entered the Pacific war did they finally surrender.

  • John Tiedje

    Odd that you question the morality of the Hiroshima event without examining all the facts and context.They were arming the population with sharpened bamboo sticks to use against our bullets.Even after Hiroshima, is was only after the Russians entered the Pacific war did they finally surrender.

  • DC Bill

    Interesting to read the posts here that refer to what God or Jesus would do…or have done under simular circumstances. These religious comments/posts presume a premise of the capacity of man to posess the mind, wisdom, knowledge and perfection of the Creator’s mind. This is illogical because at best, humans are imperfect….hence human choices. We can only try to make the right choices.Nora poised valid questions. Lets break the questions down.1. “How did Hiroshima erode our sense of morality, what we permit ourselves as a nation to do?” ANSWER: Must qualify the question with a question here. Who, when and how proved that Hiroshima eroded OUR sense of morality ? Mabe we did in fact do the moral thing ?2. “How did it affect our fragile sense of what is permissible to do to another?”ANSWER: Again, must qualify this question with a question first. Who, when and how was it proved that it did in fact AFFECT our sense and why is our sense more fragile now than it was from the beginning of time ?Take out the presumed premise of the questions Nora asked and you have a better idea of the reality of what is being asked. Kind of like asking a person when he/she stopped kicking his pet ? :)Regards,

  • postscript

    Nora, shame on you to write without any understanding of the history. The US does need to do some soul searching but for a different reason. Gen.Douglas MacArthur spared Emperor Hirohito from indictment. He also secretly granted immunity to the physicians of a covert biological warfare research and development that undertook lethal human experimentation using live humans during the war, in exchange for providing America with their research on biological weapons. Those physicians went on to work, after the war, in medicine, corporate posts, government and politics. Because of selfish reasons on the part of the US, liberal surrender conditions were authored at the expense of all the victims that fell under the evil hands of the Japanese. Some Japanese have refused to acknowledge the surrender treaty to this day.

  • Michael Vincenzo

    In 1992 I wrote a thesis entitled “United States Strategic Bombing Policy in World War II” which compared the manner in which the United States executed the air campaigns in Europe and Japan. My conclusion at the time, which was somewhat controversial, was that the approach to Japan (night time fire bombings of civillian populations ultimately culminating in the use of the atomic bombs) was primarily motivated by racism. The reason I came to this conclusion was that the United States Army Air Corps.’ approached the European theater in an entirely different manner (with some notable exceptions, i.e Dresden) through use of highly risky day light bombing of fortified industrial and military targets in an effort to destroy Germany’s capacity to wage war. Because of the dramatic impact of atomic bombings, the previous history of “area bombings” in Japan has been largely forgotten or ignored. In any event, the history of strategic bombing in Asia did not end with WW II. Its revival, through operation “Rolling Thunder” in Vietnam is a notable example. The move towards “precision targeting” in operations such as the “Shock and Awe” campaign in Iraq, while in theory motivated by a desire to reduce civillian casualties, has done little to provent collateral damage. While the metrics are not in yet, I imagine that the death rate of Iraqi civillians (and its ratio to “combatant deaths”) as a direct or indirect result of US actions in Iraq will equal or exceed the civillian death rate in WW II.

  • Fred

    I seldom return to forums but this one presents a unique snapshot of the American soul sixty-plus years after the event in question. I have copied the entirety of this string of thought for further reading. Extremes exist in it but the main line of reasoning and a search for meaning is the dominant through-line.Morality and war are mutually exclusive. I mentioned the thought that my dear old Dad most likely would have perished in any invasion (2nd Mar Div). That is personal enough for me and is a vindication of a complex decision made by an American President. My dear old Dad didn’t end wars. I ended up in 2nd Mar Div, then 1st Mar Div in Viet Nam. My own sons served in Iraq (3 tours) with 1st Mar Div and we are not particularly war-like. Serving comes easily to some of us.The common theme for all our collective experience is that any one who has to be told that war sucks, war is immoral, war is unfair and nasty and stinks and feeds only the flies and politicians has missed something deeply human, deeply true.For the guys who never had to load the boats to slam onto the Japanese shoreline (I’ve been there, JP, loved the people, loved the food, admired the ancient culture…ignored the immediate past) there was no decision. It was life and death.I didn’t want my sons to go to Iraq but I damn sure didn’t want anything kept in the cupboard that could have kept them alive. WW II had been long and the death toll for the fleet and ground forces at Okinawa made for some immutable math in terms of looking ahead.An invasion of some extent would have to happen. Japan, god bless them now, would have had the same Soviet/Western World line of demarcation across it as all the mutually conquered lands in Europe endured for sixty years after the fact.War sucks. The past is best explained without superimposing values on decisions which did not exist in the framework of the time.At the end of the day the complex reasonings behind the start of this war are quite irrelevant in light of the fact that the end was predictable and could have been more ghastly save the intervention of technology.I love my country, it ain’t always easy to do but but God help me…I do.No excuses, no apologies. The clock keeps ticking.

  • Anonymous

    Fred, you wrote:”War sucks. The past is best explained without superimposing values on decisions which did not exist in the framework of the time.At the end of the day the complex reasonings behind the start of this war are quite irrelevant in light of the fact that the end was predictable and could have been more ghastly save the intervention of technology.I love my country, it ain’t always easy to do but but God help me…I do.No excuses, no apologies. The clock keeps ticking.”And you wrote it well, beautiful and moving. I am also a vet, but without your experience. 1968-1970. Did not go to Nam, but to West Berlin. The wall and a visit to East Berlin taught me to hate any and all repressive regimes. Not communism per se; communism isn’t evil, just stupid, but it lends itself all too easily to evil men running the show.Iraq is apparently personal to both of us, albeit more to you. My great-nephew went there as a gunner on a humvee. To our great relief, he came back in one piece. I trust your sons did too.It’s a strange country we live in. I love it too, in spite of our incredible recent blunders.

  • Arminius

    Fred,That last post was from Arminius.

  • MICHAEL1945

    EM,Amen!

  • Anonymous

    Nora:How would you address those who seek to overthrow our government?Aug 1, 2007 One of the most fascinating exhibits presented by the prosecution in the Holy Land Foundation case (provided by researchers for the NEFA Foundation) is a memorandum on the Muslim Brotherhood’s multifaceted plan to convert the United States to an Islamic nation. It is the smoking gun of the Ikhwan’s long-standing efforts to destroy the Western world as we know it.The most interesting exhibit is a Muslim Brotherhood memorandum by Mohamed Akram, dated May 22, 1991, where he outlines the Ikhwan vision of the future. He leaves no ambiguity as to the nature of the Ikhwan calling. (The exhibits will be posted and written about more completely in the NEFA website in coming days).Under the heading “Understanding the role of the Muslim Brother in North America,” he writes:“The process of settlement is a ‘Civilization-Jihadist Process’ with all the word means. The Ikhwan must understand that their work in America is a kind of grand Jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and ‘sabotaging’ its miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated ad God’s religion is made victorious over all other religions.”But wait, there is more:“Without this level of understanding, we are not up to this challenge and have not prepared ourselves for Jihad yet. It is a Muslim’s destiny to perform Jihad and work wherever he is and wherever he lands until the final hour comes, and there is no escape from that destiny except for those who chose to slack.”Akram then spells out in some detail the role of the Brotherhood in moving the project forward: “As for the role of the Ikhwan, it is the initiative, pioneering, leadership, raising the banner and pushing people in that direction (the Jihadist process). They are then able to employ, direct, and unify Muslims’ efforts and powers for this process. In order to do that, we must possess a master of the art of ‘coalitions,’ the art of ‘absorption’ and the principles of ‘cooperation.’”The document then gives rationale for setting up Ikhwan organizations across the country: “We must say that we are in a country which understands no language other than the language of the organizations, and one which does not respect or give weight to any group without effective, functional and strong organizations.”The document also deals with the criticism among the Brothers that the focus on the United States will drain support for the establishment of the global caliphate. The response is two-fold:The document ends with a list of Ikhwan groups trying to coordinate, including all the usual (ISNA, ICNA, IIIT etc.)What is so interesting about the document is the breadth of ambition, the conviction of ultimate success and the care with which the campaign we see today was being thought about 16 years ago. So is the the clarity of the ultimate objective of ending our years as a functioning democracy, built on the rule of secular law, minority rights and freedom of religion, press etc.The infiltration of the government by members and sympathizers, the coordinated role of the organizations in pursuing specific objectives, the recruitment of the best and the brightest into the movement, and other objectives are far advanced, perhaps further than the author could have imagined in so short a time.The rationale, for those like Lieken et al who want play footsie with these groups bent on our destruction, is truly mindboggling. I don’t think the Brothers who have been on the cusp of the new PR campaign, from Ramadan to Akef, have bothered to spell this out like the Brothers do for themselves.But here we have it, in their own words, written by their own hands. There is much more to say, and I will revisit the topic as more information comes in. Will anyone pay attention?www.counterterrorismblog.org

  • Historian

    Ms. Gallagher, your treatise is foolish. It is patently ridiculous for fat and self satisfied Americans who in many cases literally owe their very existence to our WWII decisions to now second guess those decisions.We can sit in comfy chairs in our air conditioned homes or offices and write or say whatever we want, with the benefit of 62 years of hindsight.But as you freely express yourself, understand this: Winning World War II was a matter of nothing less than survival. Losing was not an option. Defeating a formidable enemy – whose barbaric treatment of those it conquered was well known – was all that mattered.Guess what? Americans fighting WWII did not know how it would end. They had a good idea of what life would be like if they lost. You enjoy the freedom of speech and many other things because we didn’t lose. To look back with the benefit of 62 years of hindsight, which of course those fighting the war did not have, and say what should and shouldn’t have been done is nonsense. Quote Gandhi and ponder all you like. You wouldn’t have his quotes at all if his passive resistance campaign had been waged against Imperial Japan or Nazi Germany. Fortunately, those regimes were defeated, and that fact is a very, very good thing. In 1945 that is all that mattered, and if we were in the same situation, that is all that would matter to us.

  • Shawn Simmons

    Your essay here seems self-serving and primarily written to promote your book. The quotes you used are moving, but your conclusion is “read my book to see what I really think”.

  • BGone

    FREETHINKR:The Civil War lingered on until civilians were targeted. There are no “innocents.” WT Sherman made that determination and ended the war by attacking the civilians. Those innocents give aid to the not so innocent in uniform. When Tokyo was fire bombed every house supplied all available workers to the war effort and many houses had been turned into factories. That’s not innocent.The problem in Iraq is the failure to recognize the non uniformed fighters and attack them. Foreign terrorist fighters are not living in the open off thin air. Those who have the attitude of fight to the last man (woman and child like the Japanese) must be killed to the last man. Well, one can give up the notion of victory. Maybe not going there in the first place?

  • JD

    I challenge the idea that Hiroshima eroded our sense of morality as to me it was never honestly developed, or at least it was never developed to the stature that we like to believe. We are a nation founded on slavery and genocide. Hiroshima is in many ways a consequence of that formative truth.

  • Ray Matthew

    Nora: Your writing style is beautiful and your question is provocative. I am writing a novel series about a physicist who becomes a pacifist as a result of his involvement in WW1. Then he gets drafted into helping out at Los Alamos. I’m doing research on the place and plan a trip soon, so, naturally, I will be very interested in your book. I too am exploring the same question, but really do not have a clear answer.

  • Johnathan Pollard the Spy

    Anonymous,

  • Arif

    Islamist,Christians on the other hand will mourn the loss of the Vatican if destroyed, but I’m quite sure there will not be any exploding Christians in crowded Muslim gatherings. Thanks for the questions, I read your comments often.Asim:

  • myke

    Perhaps as important as what Hiroshima did to our national soul is the effect on the national souls of all the other countries in the world who still fear what we might do with our extensive quiver of nuclear weaponry. Check out this link to see what a nuclear weapon can do to your town.

  • Alan Shapiro

    You forget that we had already destroyed two cities: Tyoto and Dresden; Neither of these were military targets. Clearly, if we had ever had one, we had already lost our soul.

  • FREETHINKR

    BGoneI generally agree with all you’ve said. Those who would “fight to the last man” will not give up unless a dramatic intervention occurs, and that appeared in the form of Fat Boy and Little Man in WWII. The Japanese would have fought to the last.I am just countering the OP regarding the premise that a “line in the sand” was crossed by our nation by dropping the bomb. I do not consider that Hiroshima “eroded our sense of morality” any more than fire bombing Tokyo did. Not at all different.

  • GK Chesterton

    BGone states:Your comment is like asking someone to go for a drink of water while keeping them locked in a waterless room. This is so typical of a post-enlightenment worlview…making the “assumption” that the universe is a closed system.If you would be so kind as to unlock my room, I just might visit the church down the street and find out the answer to your question…you know, that “non-profit” organization which delivers meals to the hungry and backpacks for needy children at the local school.

  • ahmed from bahrain

    Wake up folk. War is an outmoded form of settling disputes. It robs you from being creative. Violence begets violence. Have you not seen the results throughout our history? How much more mayhem you must support before you wake up to this very fact that violence begets violence and that the energy of Love neutralises all other energies.How many times must the cannon balls flyHow many ears must one man have How many deaths will it take till he knowsWell, the answer my friend is in your heart and you keep on using your worldly logic to deny this simple truth. Just face up to it. Do not deny yourself. Be brave. We are ALL ONE. So, wish for others what you wish for yourself. Do unto others, etc. You know the drill but you keep denying The Christ that is within you. Before the cock crows you will deny the little Jiminy Cricket a thousand times.You my friends have all the knowledge/logic but no humanity. It resides in your heart. Look for it. It was always there. Seek and you shall find.

  • DG

    Nations do not have souls, just as corporations do not have souls. Only individuals have souls. However, a group of people gathered together to form a nation, or a corporation,agree to subjugate their souls to the greater good of the institution. These institutions provide them with safety, earnings, power, influence. A soul seems like a fair price for all that. The nation or corporation must survive in order to provide this to it’s members, so it does whatever is expedient in order for it to prevail. How did the bombings of Japan, the near extermination of Native Americans, the unjust war in Iraq effect the American soul? Not at all. It doesn’t have one. The machine grinds on as it always has. But it has effected many thoughtful individual souls, who work tirelessly to end the insanity of war.

  • Freevoice

    Some people with their altruism worry about the destruction of nations far away from home while they neglect the destruction of the nation that they call home. Very typical….and it bugs my mind..(sic)

  • Anonymous

    Arif,Your views on Mecca are stupid and ingnorant:as a jew and porbably an israeli,you are promoting another war on another muslim state as the case was/is with Iraq-and where American blood and treasure is wasted while AIPAC/israel/jews sit on the side and enjoy the show. Go ahead and destroy Mecca-it is no more tha a piece of real estate that can be rebuilt;Islam however is INDUSTRUCTABLE,it firmly in the hearts of 1.6 billion human beings.Your desperate attacks on the Prophet ring a bell:the same ones that the jews of banu quraizah threw at him in vain 1400 years ago when he was alive-and his message of ultimate truth stood the test of times and Islam today is the fastest growing faith on earth-u can go ahead and eat your heart!!

  • ahmed from bahrain

    AnonYour post to Arif is amazing especially when one considers your other posts. I can’t make sense of you man.I was born into a strict Muslim family but love was everywhere even when my older brother brought in some US seamen for lunch, my mum would cook them food. That was mid-sixties. My brother worked on US oil tankers taking oil to Vietnam. I just say this so that many here know that even though I was born into a strict Shiite Muslim family we were not crazy as some would like to paint all of us. Indeed almost everyone I know to this day is far from being crazy! May be it is the fact that I do not sit with the ignorant, no matter from what camp.Yet today, at the age of 57, I have come to a firm belief that we are indeed ONE soul and God is pure and unconditional love. How do I reconcile my heart with those Quranic verses that Concerned and others keep posting here? Well, I do and with logic. This is part of my belief and no matter how hard I try to reason with folk, it seems a loosing battle, for I know that faith and belief is a personal issue. Thus, I try to resist replying to stuff which comes from a mind that is set in concrete.Ali, Prophet Mohammad’s cousin said: A tree that does not bend is the first to fall in a storm.No one can reach the absolute truth whilst they are stuck in a worldly belief system. Boxed in firmly whilst we witness this whole expanding universe. Truth and religion is set apart. But it does not mean we disrespect others because of their beliefs. Indeed if we are to gain their hearts we must treat them with kindness. If certain Muslims transgress human laws and commit murder, we should treat them as criminals. We should not go waging wars on whole countries and drop bombs on towns and villages just because we suspect there are criminals there.We do not bomb the whole school yard in order to deal with a bully. Are such basic lessons taught to us in kinder gardens lost to us?Anon: I offer you peace from my heart as I had done here before. The same offer is for all humanity from me till Eternity.My heart tells me: My body is that of a Jew, my heart is that of a Christian, my soul is that of a Muslim (truly submitted to God) and my life is that of a Buddhist and my way is Pure Love and it is expanding and changing with every moment yet it remains perfect and at peace with every change.

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