Sunday: Hili dialogue

Good morning on what promises to be another coolish and lovely day in Chicago: August 6, 2017. It’s National Root Beer Float Day (root beer and ice cream), a lovely drink that I haven’t had in years but used to get at the A&W Root Beer Drive-Ins—when they existed. It’s also the day they have the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Ceremony in that Japanese city, and you can guess why today’s the day (see below):

On this day in 1825, Bolivia gained independence from Spain, and, 101 years later, Gertrude Ederle became the first woman to swim the English Channel, doing the crawl from France to Kent in 14 hours and 34 minutes. She lived to be 98. The most notable event to happen on this day was the first use of a nuclear weapon: the U.S. bomber Enola Gay dropped the atomic bombLittle Boy” on Hiroshima, killing up to 100,000 people instantly, and many more from injuries and radiation poisoning in the next decade. I still don’t know the wisdom of this, considering the argument (and I don’t know its validity) that many more civilians would have been killed had we been forced to invade Japan.

The bombing took place only 3 weeks after the Trinity Test in New Mexico. Here’s a US propaganda film from 1946 that, given the rigors and deaths of the war, is remarkably but understandably callous about the bombing (note the extensive description of structural damage but very little mention of human death):

Here’s a photo of what was Hiroshima after the bomb did its work:

Three days later, another atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, killing at least 40,000.

On August 6, 1962, Jamaica became independent from the UK, and on this day in 2012, NASA’s planetary rover Curiosity landed on the surface of Mars.

Notables born on this day include Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809), Lucille Ball (1911), Andy Warhol (1926), M. Night Shyamalan (1970), and Vera Farmiga (1973). Those who died on this day, besides the 70,000 inhabitants of Hiroshima, include Anne Hathaway (Shakespeare’s wife; 1623), Ben Jonson (1637), Bix Beiderbecke (1931),  and Marvin Hamlisch and Robert Hughes (both 2012). Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is making a rare plea for affection:

Hili: I did not ask you to take a photo.
A: But what were you asking for?
Hili: A bit of affection.
In Polish
Hili: Nie prosiłam cię o fotografię.
Ja: A o co?
Hili: O odrobinę czułości.

And a squirrel tweet (watch the video):


  1. Randy schenck
    Posted August 6, 2017 at 7:26 am | Permalink

    That nut must be as good as a A&W Root beer float. You didn’t even have to get out of the car.

    When we make the judgement today on dropping the bomb 72 years ago are we judging that event from here and now or from a carefully thought out look and review at the time and the history that existed in the fall of 1945. If you cannot separate the decision from all you believe and understand today your judgement is not worth much. If I had been Thomas Jefferson back in 1770, I would have sold all those slaves. Sound a little stupid?

    • eliz20108
      Posted August 6, 2017 at 8:03 am | Permalink

      I agree one hundred percent. See my comment below.

      I believe the scientists needed to do more study. They did not understand about the radiation. They watched the first drop without wearing sun glasses.

      • Michael Fisher
        Posted August 6, 2017 at 10:39 am | Permalink

        @eliz20108 “I believe the scientists needed to do more study. They did not understand about the radiation. They watched the first drop without wearing sun glasses.”

        This is untrue in a lot of ways…

        ** All personnel at Trinity in the desert were supplied with film badges to monitor radiation day-to-day & a fresh badge for the live test
        ** They didn’t use sunglasses – it was almost black glassed commercial welding goggles that hugged the face on all edges.
        ** The “first drop” with a LIVE weapon was Hiroshima – the crews had welding goggles. No LIVE test weapons were dropped prior to Hiroshima.

        The first LIVE weapon test wasn’t a drop at all – the weapon was mounted on a 100′ tower at the USAAF Alamogordo Bombing & Gunnery Range. And Richard Feynman claimed to be the only person to see the explosion without the welding goggles provided, relying on a truck wind shield – he was 20 miles away from ground zero. The scientists were instructed to lie on the ground & not look at the explosion – Edward Teller disobeyed & looked, but he was wearing welding goggles over sunglasses!

        • Michael Fisher
          Posted August 6, 2017 at 11:04 am | Permalink

          P.S. Teller was one of the four people that Sellers amalgamated for his Dr. Strangelove character. Teller was a rather ‘colourful’ Hungarian who recommended the use of atomics for ‘digging’ out new ports, harbours, mines…

          He was an early supporter of the link between climate change & human activity, but changed his mind later because he thought not enough evidence. He blamed his heart attack on Jane Fonda – an amusing story.

          Teller deserves his own comedy film

          • rickflick
            Posted August 6, 2017 at 11:34 am | Permalink

            Also Teller was notorious for having torpedoed the career of Robert Oppenheimer by testifying against him to a tribunal of the Atomic Energy Commission.

  2. David Duncan
    Posted August 6, 2017 at 7:28 am | Permalink

    “I still don’t know the wisdom of this, considering the argument (and I don’t know its validity) that many more civilians would have been killed had we been forced to invade Japan.”

    The alternatives were worse. Invade Japan and suffer at least 250,000 US military casualties, probably many more. Up to 20 million Japanese casualties (the number one of their leaders was willing to spend) and hundreds of thousands of non-Japanese Asians in Japan’s empire while Japan itself was being beaten down.

    Possibly a divided Japan, like NK and Europe, with the Soviets holding a good chunk of northern Japan (they got southern Sahkalin and the Kuril Islands anyway.)

    A naval blockade was possible – to starve the Japanese into surrender but hundreds of thousands would have died, plus Japanese soldiers in the empire would have continued killing Asian civilians.

    Truman made the right choice.

    • Randy schenck
      Posted August 6, 2017 at 7:53 am | Permalink

      But here your conclusion is based on what you think the alternative would have been. Kind of speculation really. First – why would their need to be an invasion of Japan? Why not a siege, which use to be a pretty popular strategy. In other words, what was the hurry? Sure more people continue to die but it is war. Your aim in war is to break the other side’s will to continue.

      • Simon
        Posted August 6, 2017 at 8:18 am | Permalink

        The numbers of people dying in a prolongation of the war would not have been insignificant and the killing would have been no less brutal than a nuclear explosion. Men hitting each other with rifle butts, stabbing, biting each other, blowing of limbs, entrails hanging out, slipping on blood and guts. These are the kinds of experiences that men were going through. I would not have felt comfortable explaining to them that it could be ended with a single act, but they’d have to go on anyway.

        The Japanese would have responded to a siege with large scale suicide attacks with increasingly deadly weapons.

        Remember the suicides at Okinawa? What would the population on the mainland have done with the military there to command them?

        • Randy schenck
          Posted August 6, 2017 at 8:30 am | Permalink

          When mentioning the suicides on Okinawa, I assume you mean the Kamakazi, which did come into full use during the battle of Okinawa. Maybe killed 7 or 8 thousand Navy persons and sunk many ships. The continued use of the Kamakazi was doubtful because of lack of any more airplanes or pilots, however, I’m not sure how much of that was known by the Americans at the time. Suicide in the land battle was almost none because the Generals had learned the suicide type fighting was not good for their side. Much more effective to stay dug in and alive and make the enemy pay for every inch of ground.

          • Dee
            Posted August 6, 2017 at 10:28 am | Permalink

            Is he referring to the civilian suicides on Okinawa, once the island was taken?

            • Randy schenck
              Posted August 6, 2017 at 10:48 am | Permalink

              I do not know. There were likely some because the Japanese soldiers had made many of the civilians believe the Americans would kill them. Just due to the war in general, the number of civilians killed on Okinawa was possibly one third of the population.

      • improbable
        Posted August 6, 2017 at 8:35 am | Permalink

        Invasion or no, there would certainly have been many more days of conventional bombing. This was plenty destructive too, and lots of people died in those places. This is the baseline against which to measure human suffering, and it sounds like a wash to me. Napalm isn’t a pleasant way to die, either.

        But measured in other ways it was a success. Not being ruled by Stalin was one of them.

        A point I only recently understood was that it was ideologically shattering, and this was important. There was no propaganda that could cover up the fact that one American plane could fly over and destroy a whole city. The reason for surrender was clear to all.

        By contrast an island starved into submission seems like fertile ground for belief that the army was sold out. Which was, of course, part of the story of Weimar germany.

      • Jeremy Tarone
        Posted August 6, 2017 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

        Many Japanese were starving well before the bombs were dropped, indeed food was a problem before they attacked Pearl Harbour. Then a lot of infrastructure was destroyed by American bombing.
        Many Japanese had been drafted into the war or were being used in the war effort, to create fortifications around the expected US invasion areas. Transportation of food to cities was disrupted. Absenteeism in factories was as high as 40 percent, almost entirely due to workers searching for food.

        Starvation increased after surrender, but the US military relieved it reasonably soon considering the size of the problem.

        One of the reasons Japan started invading other countries (and committing some of the worst atrocities before and during the war) was to get at China’s farm land. Japan was dependent on food imports. A siege could have killed many more than the bombs and Japan was already under siege, for a considerable period of time. The United States had destroyed Japan’s merchant fleet and navy. Yet even as late as the summer of 45 a common Japanese saying was “Death before surrender.”

        It isn’t speculation, it was exactly what was planned. US armed forces had planned to invade Japan, and Japanese forces knew exactly where American forces would need to come ashore. Japan had plenty of time to fortify the areas. Japanese forces in those areas eventually grew to over a million soldiers. Local civilians were given wooden weapons and told to fight to the death.
        From America’s experience in earlier invasions against Japanese soldiers and civilians, they expected they would do exactly that.

        The Japanese viewed their emperor as a God on Earth. It was a society that was (and still is to a large extent) extremely rigid and cohesive where the individual subsumes their interest to authority. Even after the second bomb was dropped a coup was attempted against the emperor when it was found out he was going to surrender. America wasn’t just fighting a war against the Japanese, they were fighting an ideology of superiority that was every bit as destructive as Nazism. Ideologies die hard. Even today imperialism ideology survives in Japan, just as Nazism survives in Germany.

      • Posted August 6, 2017 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

        How do you siege an archipelago the size of Japan? How many years do you think they could hold out?

        Anyway, a siege or an invasion would necessarily have cost a lot more lives. Before you say “how do you know”, consider the bombing of Tokyo in March 1945. In one raid American bombers levelled 16 square miles of the city and killed 100,000 people. This sort of thing would have carried on throughout the siege or invasion. From the perspective of a person on the ground, is there really much difference between one bomber dropping an atom bomb and three hundred bombers dropping thousands of tons of conventional explosives?

        The above should also give you a better perspective on the nature of the moral decision. Dropping the atomic bombs really wasn’t much of a step up for the Allied leaders. They had routinely been meting out Hiroshima scale destruction on Axis cities for a couple of years.

        Another point to remember is that, if the bomb had not been dropped and your son was killed in the subsequent invasion, how would you have felt when you eventually found out that the President possessed the means to end the war in a matter of days but had failed to use it?

        I’m not sure if using the bomb was the right decision, but I do not blame the men who took the decision for taking that decision with the knowledge they had. I probably would have done the same.

        • Randy schenck
          Posted August 6, 2017 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

          I guess you are replying to my comments above? But I have not made any final comment as to the wrong or right of the decision to drop the bombs. I have only corrected other comments or played devils advocate to others more willing to make judgement. I would also remind you that I am pretty well aware of the history of all this and what events took place. I lived on Okinawa for five years and have studied that battle of the war at length. I have also been to Japan several times and pretty well know the size of the place.

    • ploubere
      Posted August 6, 2017 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

      Another choice would have been to explode atomic bombs in uninhabited areas to demonstrate their power, and then threaten the Japanese with their use on their cities if they didn’t surrender. It might not have worked, but at least it could have been tried before actually destroying whole cities.

      • Kiwi Dave
        Posted August 6, 2017 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

        Given that the Japanese government decided after Hiroshima to continue to fight – the minister of war thought it was a one-off stunt- and it it took a rapid second a-bomb over Nagasaki plus the Russian declaration of war to persuade half the war cabinet to accept Allied terms, it is wildly unlikely that bombing an uninhabited area would have had any effect than to deplete the tiny US nuclear arsenal by one.

    • Posted September 21, 2017 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

      I agree. Our culture has undergone a strange evolution and now regards the well-being of its enemies as its top priority. But Truman lived before this, and I guess he would have a little trouble explaining to US voters that he had off-hand a weapon that would save the lives of many US soldiers but abstained from using it because it would be bad for the Japanese.

  3. Linda Calhoun
    Posted August 6, 2017 at 7:34 am | Permalink

    I have mentioned before that my father was stationed at Alamogordo AFB during WWII, and that he trained pilots.

    He spoke a few times about all the men he taught instrument flying to who never returned, but gave their lives in the war.

    At the time the bomb was dropped, the US had been at war for almost four years.

    They all just wanted it to be over as quickly as possible. I’m sure that consideration went into the decision to drop the bomb. We can’t really know in hindsight how that must have felt to them. It’s easy to look back and make judgments, but when your perspective is in the moment, the reality is a lot more raw.

    We seem now to be a country that is a lot more inured, unfortunately, to war.


  4. eliz20108
    Posted August 6, 2017 at 8:01 am | Permalink

    I want to point out that most of us in the U>S> had no idea about the existence of the atomic bomb.

    split the atom? What’s that?

    I remember walking to work the next morning and seeing headlines in the newspaper kiosk. What is an atomic bomb?

    The country cannot be held guilty.

    • Randy schenck
      Posted August 6, 2017 at 8:14 am | Permalink

      Not sure we can go with that idea either because Truman had a pretty good idea of the damage and death based on the estimates and the test in New Mexico. But it’s really not a matter of guilt either. They knew enough to explode the bomb in the air above the city for maximum affect. They also, rather quickly dropped the one other bomb just days later, after they saw the results of the first.

  5. Historian
    Posted August 6, 2017 at 8:29 am | Permalink

    The need to drop the atomic bombs on Japan to end the war and the morality of doing so is arguably today the most contested issue among historians. The amount of literature is staggering. However, the issue is NOT whether the bombings resulted in far fewer casualties (including Japanese) than would have been the case if an invasion of the Japanese home islands had taken place. I don’t think anybody seriously contests this. The debate revolves around questions such as 1) did Truman know that the Japanese were on the verge of surrendering (an assertion of historical debate itself) and could have achieved this result fairly rapidly without using the bombs?; 2) were the bombs used actually to impress the Soviets as opposed to ending the war?; 3) did the bombs actually convince the Japanese to surrender or was it something else such as the Soviet entrance into the war against Japan, which took place very close in time to the dropping of the bombs?

    This topic is not my area of specialty, but I have read a little about it. It seems that the evidence is ambiguous and a consensus among historians is nowhere in sight. All we can say for sure is that the war ended shortly ended after the bombs (with cause-and-effect a focus of great debate) and that hundreds of thousands of lives on both sides were saved because an invasion was not necessary. We can also debate whether the horror of the bombings dissuaded world leaders from using even more powerful bombs at a later date. The study of human affairs is a messy business and the “lessons” it teaches are usually murky at best.

    • Historian
      Posted August 6, 2017 at 8:38 am | Permalink

      I should also add that the ideological biases of an historian writing on this topic also may come into play.

    • Randy schenck
      Posted August 6, 2017 at 8:41 am | Permalink

      Other issues we need to insert was the fact of what Russia was doing at the time and our own requirements for surrender. Russia had entered the war and was attacking from the west. If the war had drug on much longer it is likely we would have seen the entire of Korea fall into soviet hands, so that was a problem. Also, we insisted on unconditional surrender which was going to prolong this war with Japan. When they did finally give up and agree to these terms, notice that we did finally allow for the remainder of Hirohito. Had we been more flexible in terms of surrender, it could have shortened the war and avoided the bombs??

    • David Duncan
      Posted August 6, 2017 at 8:41 am | Permalink

      1. The Japanese were not on the verge of surrendering. They sought to end the way on terms favourable to themselves. Some Japanese thought they were winning.

      2. Impressing the Soviets was probably a fringe benefit, not the main reason.

      3. The bombs were mentioned specifically by Hirohito as a factor in his decision to force the government/millitary to surrender.

      • David Duncan
        Posted August 6, 2017 at 8:48 am | Permalink

        From Hirohito’s broadcast:

        “Moreover, the enemy has begun to employ a new and most cruel bomb, the power of which to do damage is, indeed, incalculable, taking the toll of many innocent lives. Should we continue to fight, not only would it result in an ultimate collapse and obliteration of the Japanese nation, but also it would lead to the total extinction of human civilization.”

      • Historian
        Posted August 6, 2017 at 8:58 am | Permalink

        Your view is but one that can be offered as to why the Japanese surrendered. I will not get into a debate about an issue of extreme complexity and of which there is no resolution. However, I offer for consideration a good summary of the debate that concentrates on the question of whether it was Soviet entrance into the war and not the bombs that convinced the Japanese to surrender.

        • Historian
          Posted August 6, 2017 at 9:17 am | Permalink

          Here’s another article that discusses the debate about the bomb. A look at the comments is worthwhile.

          • Randy schenck
            Posted August 6, 2017 at 9:48 am | Permalink

            Very good information in both articles. It shows that coming to conclusions so cut and dried as yes or no about an event in history is much more difficult than making your gut decision. The more you know about the period and the subject, the better your opinion will be, if you can ever come to one. It is possible that Russia is the answer to both ideas or at least part of the answer, why did we drop those bombs and why did Japan surrender as they did.

            Often it is forgotten why was Hiroshima and Nagasaki the choice for dropping these bombs. Primarily because the Americans had run out of targets. Most of the other choices had already been bombed and bombed again and in order to find an area that would show the affect of these bombs, this was about all that was left. Just another item to think about.

            • David Duncan
              Posted August 6, 2017 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

              Also, they were within range of American bases. Some other desirable targets, which had not been heavily attacked with conventional weapons, were not within easy range.

              • Randall Schenck
                Posted August 6, 2017 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

                There was nothing out of range in Aug. 1945. Remember, we had taken Okinawa, only 700 miles from Tokyo. The B-29 could make that trip and back with lots of gas left to do it again. You can go from Tokyo to Okinawa today in less than 1.5 hours on any airliner.

              • David Duncan
                Posted August 6, 2017 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

                From the Wikipedia artcle on Niigata:

                “In 1945, near the end of the war, Niigata was one of four cities, together with Hiroshima, Kokura, and Nagasaki, picked as targets for the atomic bomb if Japan did not surrender. The governor of Niigata Prefecture ordered the people to evacuate as rumors of an impending bombing spread, and the city was completely deserted for days. Poor weather conditions and its distance from B-29 bases in the Mariana Islands meant that it was removed from the list of targets during deliberations; Nagasaki was bombed instead.”

              • Randy schenck
                Posted August 6, 2017 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

                You are correct as the airplanes carrying the bombs did fly from Tinian at this time. However, that would have quickly changed to Okinawa in the future as soon as the runways were ready for the bombers.

    • Gregory Kusnick
      Posted August 6, 2017 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

      There seems to be a widespread assumption that the only alternative to using the bombs on civilian populations was not using them at all. In his alternate-history novella The Lucky Strike, Kim Stanley Robinson imagines a third alternative: use them against non-civilian targets to intimidate the Japanese into surrender.

      • Posted August 6, 2017 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

        On that note, there is the question of why Hiroshima was not listed in the warning leaflets dropped all over Japan during the civilian bombing. Dropping the bomb on an evacuated Hiroshima would have been as effective as the surprise bombing of an unsuspecting city. And Japan could have been told, next time–no warning.

    • Kiwi Dave
      Posted August 6, 2017 at 9:05 pm | Permalink

      As you say, there is a huge amount of Hiroshima literature and I, a non-historian, have read only some of it but, IIRC:

      1) There is no credible evidence that the Japanese government, as distinct from some individuals in the government, was prepared to surrender on terms acceptable to the allies until after the two nuclear bombs and the Soviet declaration of war; even then only half the war cabinet agreed to surrender, and the final surrender was not unconditional, though often misrepresented as such. US intelligence, which was reading J. diplomatic cables, quickly distinguished between official and unofficial responses.

      2) Evidence that Truman used the bomb to impress or intimidate the Soviets is very thin, but there is quite robust evidence that Truman was concerned to end the war as quickly as possible with the fewest American casualties. In one discussion of possible Allied casualties, Admiral Leahy, an A-bomb sceptic (“The bomb will not work, and I speak as an expert on explosives”) pointedly observed to Truman that 35% of US ground forces in Okinawa had become casualties and that three-quarters of a million troops would be used in the first landing on the home islands.

      By late July, US intelligence had discovered that Japan had so greatly strengthened the landing zones that instead of attacking with a three to one superiority, generally considered the minimum ratio to gain a quick victory, US forces would have only marginal numerical superiority.

      3) There is no doubt that the Soviet attack came as huge shock to wishful thinkers in the Japanese government and wrecked their hope of fighting a stalemated battle with invading US-led forces,then negotiating a satisfactory peace via Moscow.

      However the final straw which broke the camel’s back came on top of everything else – the two A-bombs which showed that what once took 300+ planes to maybe wreck a city could now be achieved by a single aircraft and, who knows, maybe the next bomb might be dropped on the palace in Kyoto; the A-bombs came on top of a conventional bombing campaign which had killed 500,000 and forced the government to evacuate millions without an adequate food distribution mechanism, on top of a blockade which had reduced pre-war imports by 99% and was now disrupting internal transport, on top of three years of defeats in the Pacific and the loss of Burma. A Hirohito confidant claims that Hirohito revealed his decision to surrender to him several hours before Hirohito heard of the Soviet declaration of war, which was advanced from its original date as a result of Hiroshima because Stalin feared Japan would surrender before he grab territory in the Far East.

      Some quote Truman’s Potsdam diary entry, “Jap fini” after Stalin agreed to attack Japan as evidence that the bombs weren’t necessary but, in fact, no one knew how long it would take to force a general surrender, and what casualties would be incurred in the meantime.

      On a different matter, modern moralists blessed with hindsight and concerned by the Hiroshima civilian death toll might note that each month the war continued in 1945, c.100-250k Asian civilians, mostly Chinese, were dying from the disruptions of war.

  6. Phil Rounds
    Posted August 6, 2017 at 8:37 am | Permalink

    Ok…I refuse to second guess the people who made the decision to use the most lethal force against Japan in WW2.
    We were not the initiators of the war. We were attacked mercilessly ourselves at Pearl Harbor.
    The Japanese were warned repeatedly to surrender but persisted in the war.
    Hirohito (considered a god at the time) had warned his people that Americans would severely abuse them after the war and that they should fight to the last man and woman standing. So, they weren’t likely to quit any time soon without the threat (and demonstration) of dire consequences.
    Pamphlets were dropped warning the population of both cities that the attack was coming….they were mostly ignored.

    There were certainly political and economic conditions which precipitated this war and it is arguable whether or not Pearl Harbor could have been avoided. But this was not a war of choice, as literally all of today’s wars are. America was fighting for its life…and if those bombs saved the life of even one Allied soldier, it was worth it.

    • Posted August 6, 2017 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

      Yes. I must be dangerously soft-hearted for wondering whether the lives of hundreds of thousands of innocent Japanese civilians might outweigh an American life.

      • Jeremy Tarone
        Posted August 6, 2017 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

        Hundreds of thousands of Japanese are only a tiny fraction of the millions of innocents civilians Imperial Japan butchered as they literally murdered and raped their way across the Pacific. Their methods made even Nazi’s complain. Some liked to use pregnant women as live bayonet dummies. Torture and murder was (to the Japanese) merely a method of the superior Japanese subjugating new populations under their control.

        A hundred thousand Japanese are thought to have been killed just in the fire bombing of Tokyo, which was only one of 66 cities in Japan levelled by conventional bombing. All those people killed are just as dead as those killed by the atomic bombs.

        There are towns in China that still suffer the consequences of biological warfare and testing done on civilians.
        Some who lived were vivisectioned alive, screaming themselves horse as they were cut to pieces.

        My Chinese friend tells me that many Chinese still hate the Japanese.

        Some of which was publicized in Japan:

        • Posted August 6, 2017 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

          Hmmm. So the innocent civilians of Hiroshima and Nagasaki deserved to be annihilated because they were the same race as the Japanese military personnel who committed war crimes? And I suppose by that logic innocent American citizens deserved to be interred because they were of Japanese extraction.

          • Jeremy Tarone
            Posted August 11, 2017 at 1:39 am | Permalink

            No, they were killed because the Japanese were still murdering people in China and invading would have gotten as many as a million Japanese killed, and hundreds of thousands of Americans casualties.

            Japan, like the US, Canada and the UK were involved in total war. Every working Japanese citizen in every city was helping the war effort. That is and was the nature of total war. You may not like the implications of that, but that was what it was.

            The destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki stopped the war. I won’t repeat what I’ve already written above in other comments and what others have written. There were no good options for the US and a lot of Japanese were going to die no matter what the US did as long as they refused to surrender. Other options could have left a magnitude more Japanese dead.

            Japan was every bit as bad an ideology as Nazi Germany, if not worse. The ideology of superiority racism ran deep in Japanese culture. It was a part of their cultural identity. Japan is only just beginning to really grow past that ideology as the older generations die.

            The US decided to use a method that would minimize American casualties. I can’t blame them, Japan started the war, committed genocide across the Pacific and had shown themselves willing to fight to the death, military and civilians.

  7. Hempenstein
    Posted August 6, 2017 at 9:52 am | Permalink

    Also 1825 in Bolivia, tho probably not this day, Simón Bolívar issued a decree requiring the new government to plant 1M trees in recognition of their importance to the future of the new nation. This was a reflection of deeply Bolívar had embraced his friend Alexander von Humbolt’s then-revolutionary views. (Source for this in this link to the relevant page of this excellent bio of Humboldt.)

  8. Diana MacPherson
    Posted August 6, 2017 at 10:05 am | Permalink

    And after that detonation in Japan, so ended WWII and the Cold War began where many tests were completed in the South Pacific by the US and France, destroying the flora and fauna for untouched areas and polluting New Zealand with Strontium-90 and Caesium-137 that showed up in milk and other places for decades. Awful. The reason why New Zealand is so anti-nuclear.

  9. Posted August 6, 2017 at 10:59 am | Permalink

    I can’t help thinking that the atomic bombings of H and N were a moral abomination. Not that anything is moral in total war. In my reading on it, one thing that stands out is the callous reasons why they were targeted. Hiroshima was chosen largely because it had been untouched by conventional bombing and the war planners wanted a clean sheet to assess damage. Poor Nagasaki got bombed because it was clear that day while the primary was clouded.

    However, I don’t know how I would have felt if I were alive then. My vet dad told me everyone was overjoyed when the bombings were announced.

    • Luis Servin
      Posted August 6, 2017 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

      Finally a comment not dealing with cold calculations about the “necessity” for killing 100,000 people in an instant. Thank you.

  10. Randy schenck
    Posted August 6, 2017 at 11:51 am | Permalink

    Total war in America was discovered by Grant and Sherman during the civil war. However, it was Curtis LeMay who perfected it throughout WWII.

    • rickflick
      Posted August 6, 2017 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

      ‘Rediscovered’ perhaps. I think the program was widely practiced for millennia before the Civil War. Tribal wars in prehistory were probably genocidal. Perhaps only fertile young women would live to pass down their genes to Grant, Sherman, and LeMay.

      • Randy schenck
        Posted August 6, 2017 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

        Probably in those tribal wars, killing or capturing all persons may have been the initial reason for the conflict and there was that – to the victors goes the spoils business. My reference above was that Sherman and Grant, late in the civil war made a radical adjustment and laid waste to the countryside putting pain and suffering on the civilian population that had not been done before. LeMay introduced large scale bombing of civilian populations in enemy territory throughout WWII, first in Europe and then perfected in Japan.

  11. Chris Swart
    Posted August 6, 2017 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

    This morning I finished reading “With the Old Breed” by E.B. Sledge, a Marine mortar man who served at Peleliu and Okinawa.

    It is a fascinating book, a quick read, and a classic. I recommend it without reservation. It provides a first-hand window into the experience of our fathers and grandfathers who were there.

    • Randy schenck
      Posted August 6, 2017 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

      Agreed. I read that one some years ago and it is very good. Not often that a guy who lived down in the dirt as a soldier, puts out such a book. To remain sane and in one piece to do it is another thing.

  12. Chris Swart
    Posted August 6, 2017 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

    I want to mention Robert Mitchum who was born 100 years ago today, August 6, 1917. The movie channel is playing his films all day and most of the night.

  13. Posted August 6, 2017 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

    My wife and I went to the West Indies on holiday.


    No, in fact it was her idea.

  14. wetherjeff
    Posted August 6, 2017 at 5:55 pm | Permalink

    I’d like to echo what others have said about it being impossible to know how people thought and felt at the time. I can only speak from a British perspective, and Truman was obviously not British. He wasn’t even a normal member of the public, but he no doubt shared many of the same emotions, experiences and fears. This is a bit of a long reply but it’s a matter close to my heart. I also have no answer to whether dropping the bomb was right or wrong. But here goes:

    I live in a relatively small village in Yorkshire and every Remembrance Day (11/11) a ceremony is held at the village war memorial. I’m not one for ceremonies at all but I nearly always go, as do hundreds of other people, I also take my kids as I think it’s important that they understand what their great-grandparents’ generation had to endure. During the ceremony an announcer reads out the names of people from the village that died in the world wars and for such a small area the number is truly staggering. It takes about ten minutes to read them, and from the names it is obvious that many are from the same families. I’m not a very emotional person but I find it incredibly moving.
    It’s not like they had a choice – they were either forced to go to war, or felt compelled to because losing the war was unthinkable – Hitler was only 21 miles away over the Channel after all. Almost all of these soldiers would have suffered horrible, painful deaths while terrified out of their wits, and their families knew this of course. By the end of the WW2 virtually the whole of society was traumatised by, and desensitized to, organised brutality. Within just my own family my grandparents suffered many bereavements – my maternal grandmother, for instance, lost her father in WW1 and three brothers in WW2 (her mother died when she was an infant).

    I saw the film Dunkirk the other day, again with my kids. It’s an excellent film, but quite intense and a difficult film to watch at times. It does a fantastic job of showing the nastiness and pointlessness of war though, which I’m glad my girls picked up on. The film also conveys the terrifying existential threat that people in the UK felt at the time. After defeating France in three weeks Hitler was just a short boat ride away. Can you imagine the reality of Nazi troops stomping down your street, raping your daughter, or wife or mother? What about you and the rest of your family being dragged into the street to be shot or hung because a fellow villager shot at them? I can’t, but this is the reality the British public lived in, it was a very real threat. As we know it actually happened in much of Europe. The situation did change by 1945 but all the carnage, tragedy, fear and grief was either very recent or still going on.

    Fast forward a few years to the firebombings of Germany and then Japan. We would rightly regard these as hideous atrocities if carried out today; they were truly horrific. There are countless dreadful stories from Dresden or Hamburg, or Tokyo: families cooking to death in German bomb shelters, families trying to escape a firestorm only to become stuck in melted asphalt where they would burn alive in sight if each other, hundreds of women and children jumping from bridges in Tokyo to extinguish their burning skin and flesh in the river. This sort of thing was happening to tens of thousands of innocent people in every allied fire bombing raid – the Tokyo raid of March 9-10 1945 is reckoned to have killed over 100,000 people, most through burning to death. The German and Japanese governments were fully aware of these facts. However, the regimes never showed any concern for their citizens, even when it was obvious the war was lost for them, and they never hinted at the possibility of surrender. All the while Allied soldiers were dying by the thousands every single day.

    Truman had no knowledge of the bomb until days before it was dropped, and he had to make the decision in the context of worldwide slaughter and devastation. The US public had spent a fortune on the bomb, and a tremendous amount of industrial and scientific capacity was invested too – at the expense, it should be noted, of reduced resources in other areas of the war. Japan had obstinately refused to surrender, even after the firebombing horrors of Tokyo and other cities.

    Thousands of your soldiers are dying horribly every day. You have to end the war. Do you continue firebombing Japanese cities, burning to death hundreds of thousands of civilians, with little chance of surrender? All while preparing an invasion which would kill scores of civilians and countless thousands of your own troops? How would you answer the families of the tens or hundreds of thousands of your troops that died in the invasion you ordered, when the families find out you had the bomb but didn’t use it?

    Would you drop the bomb? I have no idea if I would or could, and this is why I would never want to hold any political or military office.

    • rickflick
      Posted August 6, 2017 at 7:18 pm | Permalink

      Good point. I have no idea either and I’m glad I was only -0.5 years old when it all happened.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted August 6, 2017 at 8:46 pm | Permalink

      That was an excellent story from Yorkshire. Your perspective is quite important on this subject as it would be. Having done my time in the U.S. military over in your country I obtained a perspective on the folks there. Always remember the Blokes around Lakenheath were not always thrilled to see me or other American service types and that is typical even around towns close to bases in the states as well. However, as I would get further distance from the area the people would become more friendly. Finally I happened to go to Liverpool with a friend who had family there. One evening they took us to an event at their local club, I’m not sure what they call it there but over here it would be like the American Legion where vets hang out. I ended up being pulled up on stage and talked about in glowing terms because of who I was and it was quite embarrassing. What a difference several miles can make.

      • wetherjeff
        Posted August 7, 2017 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

        I’m glad to hear you enjoyed some of your time here at least – you will generally find life is more laid back in the North. It sounds like you were in a Royal British Legion in Liverpool and they are still all over the place in the UK, there’s actually one less than half a mile from where I’m sat at home now. They sell cheap beer so remain pretty popular!

        Something I wanted to say but didn’t get round to last night is that I am worried that knowledge of the world wars and appreciation of their horrors is slowly disappearing. I wasn’t born until 30 years after world war two but I was lucky enough to have direct contact with people that were involved.
        All my grandparents were involved, and although they are all no longer with us I still know a chap that was there in the flesh – he’s the grandfather of a friend and now in his mid-nineties. He traveled to Burma in 1942 and on his first day in battle was captured by the Japanese Army, subsequently spending the rest of the war in a Japanese POW camp in the Philippines. The cruelty of the guards was horrendous and he was frequently subjected to mock executions and arbitrary punishments. The day after the Hirohito surrender statement the guards disappeared. The POWs were literally starving but as the guards couldn’t take the food stockpiles with them, they dumped them in the sea rather than give to the POWs.

        I was also extremely lucky to know a WW1 veteran until 2000 – the great grandfather of my best friend through high school. I just wish he was around to talk to now as he had such fascinating stories, unfortunately he died in March 2000. He served at both the Battle of Somme and 3rd Ypres – both of which were not much more than organised, mechanised slaughter, in fact they were probably some of the worst places to have been in all human history. They were truly horrific. This is the fella: , he was a real character, drank a lot of tea and I never once saw him have a cuppa without a tot of whiskey – he lived to be 106!

        My big fear is that the generation of younger people now coming of age will not know these veterans and never hear their stories. To them the casualties of WW1 and WW2 are just abstract numbers and don’t mean a great deal. I truly believe that this is a major factor behind the petty nationalism of Brexit & Trump; voters are slowly forgetting the carnage of the wars and the importance of cooperation. They just don’t realise the importance of working together because they are not familiar with what happened before the end of WW2. We have spent decades since then building closer ties between countries and continents and now many people in the west appear to be happy to ditch this process, returning to division and isolation. I find it worrying, really worrying.

        • Diane G.
          Posted August 8, 2017 at 11:39 pm | Permalink

          A very cogent–and frightening–analysis. Thank you for these thoughts.

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