The bombing of Hiroshima, 73 years ago

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The bombing of Hiroshima, 73 years ago

Technically the anniversary was yesterday, but I wanted to wait a day because I figured there would be some decent stories that came out, and I was right, we have a pretty good one from NPR I will get to in a minute.

I'm assuming that no one reading this doesn't already know the basics, but nonetheless, here is a short video from NYT to get you ready:

What is often underplayed is the number of lives the bombing, and resulting quick surrender, that came about from Hiroshima, and the bombing of Nagasaki days later, as this piece in The Diplomat by Zachery Keck argues:

Nonetheless, I also believe that President Harry Truman’s decision to use the atomic bombs against Japan almost certainly saved lives. This is undoubtedly true if one accepts the arguments of U.S. leaders at the time; namely, that not using the atomic bomb would have forced the U.S. to launch a full invasion of Japan’s home islands, and this would have killed far more people than Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

It’s impossible to know how many people would have perished if allied forces invaded Japan. However, given the stiff resistance U.S. and allied forces faced during the island-hopping campaign of the Pacific War, it would have been many, many times greater than the 200,000+ people that died from the atomic bombings.

In fact, the casualties from the U.S. strategic conventional bombing campaign greatly eclipsed the number of individuals who died from the atomic bombings. The March 1945 firebombing of Tokyo alone killed some120,000 Japanese. A ground invasion would have resulted in nearly immeasurable more casualties. As one scholar who studied the U.S. invasion plan, Operation Downfall, notes: “depending on the degree to which Japanese civilians resisted the invasion, estimates ran into the millions for Allied casualties and tens of millions for Japanese casualties.”

NPR yesterday had a good piece with audio from one of the individuals involved in the bombing.

Russell Gackenbach was a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army Air Corps and a navigator on the mission. Today, the 95-year-old is the only surviving crew member of those three planes.

Gackenbach enlisted in the Army Aviation Cadet Program in 1943. After completing his training, he was approached by Col. Paul Tibbets, who was recruiting officers for a special mission. Tibbets said it would be dangerous but if they were successful, it could end the war.

The 509th Composite Group, lead by Tibbets, spent months training in Wendover, Utah, before being shipped off to an American air base on the Pacific island of Tinian.

Their planes were reconfigured B-29 Superfortress bombers. They had different engines, fewer guns and a larger bomb bay.

The entire thing is worth watching, but his take away was simple:

"After 73 years, I do not regret what we did that day. All war's hell," he said. "The Japanese started the war; it was our turn to finish it."

Back in 1994, right before I started working for the Legion, the National Staff engaged in marathon discussions with the Smithsonian about the exhibit on the bombing, which apparently tried to put both sides on mutual footing, something that seems odd given that the Japanese attacked the US, not the other way around.

After months of criticism by veterans groups and members of Congress, the Smithsonian Institution has agreed to make major changes in its planned exhibit of the airplane that dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima.

The exhibit featuring the B-29 bomber, the Enola Gay, will no longer include a long section on the postwar nuclear race that veterans groups and members of Congress had criticized. The critics said that the discussion did not belong in the exhibit and was part of a politically loaded message that the dropping of the atomic bomb on Japan began a dark chapter in human history.

Hubert R. Dagley 2d, the American Legion's director of internal affairs and one of the main negotiators, said he was pleased that Smithsonian officials had agreed to the revisions.

Mr. Dagley said one improvement in the exhibit was a new section on the history of the war in the Pacific before the bombing.

"Before, there was only one paragraph on Pearl Harbor," Mr. Dagley said.

Mr. Dagley had complained that the earlier script for the exhibit said that while the Japanese were planning their attack on Pearl Harbor, the Americans were making plans to bomb Japan. He said that element of the script was a misguided effort to morally balance the two sides by equating a sneak attack by the Japanese with regular contingency planning by the United States.

If you ever want to read an excellent book about the bombing and the men who carried it out, I would commend to you Duty: A Father, His Son, and the Man Who Won the War by Bob Greene.  One of the better books I've ever read, and makes a compelling case that most of the men who did that mission felt pride in what they had accomplished, and a certainty that they had saved many lives, both American and Japanese.

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In the 8th grade at Sudbrook Jr Hi School my classmate and friend Nicholas Beaser’s (Sp?) father who flew on the Enola Gay gave a talk on what it was like to drop the atomic bomb, in our school auditorium. I will never forget that day! Was grateful to be able to meet his father and learn how important that mission was to our Country.

Stop bragging about Hiroshima Has there been no other glorious victories since that (Iraq, Korea, Viet-Nam) Why go back 73 years to find a victory by slaughtering hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians, men, women and children, It was a war crime.

How about doing some research about the TRUTH, don't believe the left re-writing of history in US Schools! It WAS the Japanese who were doing the slaughtering of the innocents! They MURDERED thousands of Chinese and Koreans and made SLAVES out of the rest! They butchered their way through southeast Asia! Their mistake was awakening up the "Sleeping Giant" and we kicked their kimonos back to their homeland!

The 3 minute Daily 360 video above is wrong on one account: Cancer and birth defects have NOT plagued the hayabusa (bomb survivors) any more than those of the rest of the population. These two cities had the only statistically large number of people exposed to a nuclear blast, and their health has been followed closely. They had a slightly elevated number of thyroid cancers (but no increase in thyroid cancer death rates) and some temporary respiratory sickness from the soot and "black rain" from the city on fire, but no increase in birth defects. Testing during the Cold War proved that if the hayabusa person was far enough away from the epicenter to receive no more than second-degree burns (survivable blisters), then their prompt radiation dose was about one rad, which is the EPA's nominal annual civilian dose limit even now. Finally, now that they have all reached their 90s and are almost gone, their lifespans were on average about 18 months longer than the rest of the Japanese.
Both cities are completely modern, home to about 2.5 million, and have no residual radiation at all. None.

Guys, the Japanese at the time were about the best soldiers to ever fight. I don't mean in regards to weapons or aircraft but intensity of mindset. These were people that drove their aircraft, that were hit or not, into our ships at sea as well. They would have fought to the last man.

I was born in 1938 and grew up during WW11. As a result I became very interested in what really happened and why. For those less educated about the bombings and civilian deaths perhaps I can shed some light on the subject for you. Japan had no intent to surrender regardless of the fact that in 1945 they knew they could not, and would not win the war. They were prepared to fight to the last man, woman and child before they would submit to defeat. Had we not dropped the bombs the war would have continued and tens of thousands, perhaps millions of people, consisting of all branches of the military from many nations and the Japanese civilian population would have died. Yes, we would have won the war but at what cost to all, especially the civilian population of Japan. City after city in Japan would have been destroyed. The total country of Japan would have been in ruins. Devastation would rule. Evidently some letter writers don't know that the non nuclear bombs dropped on various cities in Japan often killed as many, or more civilians then did the atomic bombs. The intent was never to kill civilians, but to destroy the city, the physical structures, that could aid Japan in continuing the war. Civilian losses in all wars for all nations cannot be avoided. If you cannot understand that, you need to do more reading, or ,forgive me, keep your damn mouth shut because you know not of what you speak! The dropping of both bombs, tragic as it was, actually saved tens of thousands of lives on both sides, and saved Japan from complete destruction. Wars are not fought with just the military. That is a totally unrealistic concept. Maybe it should be that way, but it can never be. I am grateful that Truman made the "no brainer" decision to drop both bombs. It saved far more lives than it cost. Would those who oppose the nuclear bombings feel better if the same number were killed by conventional bombs. To me, dead is dead.

Ken Flood's post, comparing Trump to Hitler, reminds me of NFL athletes taking a knee during the National Anthem. George Foreman said it best, "these young men do not know, nor have ever been taught patriotism."
As a 30-year Naval veteran, I do not celebrate "Hiroshima," I commemorate it the same as I do the "Holocaust." Remembrance is the key to preventing future occurrences.
Two questions for which we will never have an answer: 1) If the attack on Pearl Harbor had never occurred, would the U.S. have entered WWII?; 2) If Muslim terrorists had not attacked the Twin Towers, would the U.S. have entered the Iraq/Afghanistan war?
Lastly, not all Arabs are Muslims and not all Muslims are Arabs! It is misguided Muslim ideology that is the biggest contributor to terrorism. There is no correlation between the U.S. military and Japanese kamikaze suicide pilots or Muslim suicide bombers!

I also agonized over the moral implications of dropping the bomb. So last summer I read three excellent books on the subject. DOWNFALL THE END OF THE IMPERIAL JAPANESE EMPIRE by RICHARD B. FRANK, HELL TO PAY OPERATION DOWNFALL and the INVASION OF JAPAN, 1945-1947 and last RETRIBUTION THE BATTLE FOR JAPAN, 1944-45 by MAX HASTINGS. Since reading these books I have come to the conclusion that the bomb shortened the war and saved many lives on both sides and kept Russia (Stalin) from taking Hokkaido. (Many thousands of Japanese civilians in Manchuria and Sakhalin wound up in Stalin's Gulags.) I think the horrors of the bomb helped M.A.D. work during the Cold War. If the war had continued I am convinced that my dad who was a flight engineer on a B-32 bomber in all likelihood would have perished and I would not be here to be writing this.

Hiroshima and Nagasaki taught the world; war justifies murdering the innocent uninvolved citizens. Now Japan has demonstrated historically some very horrible actions against the Koreans. Also their attack on Pearl Harbor was not righteous. However, the USA's attack on the innocent in Japan via the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was also not righteous. Suggesting this method was better than any other option is not correct.

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News from the World of Military and Veterans Issues. Iraq and A-Stan in parenthesis reflects that the author is currently deployed to that theater.