My sixth grade teacher, Paul Peca, who died four years ago, believed that the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan on August 6 and 9, 1945, respectively, was necessary in order to end World War II in the Pacific.
He said, and the conventional wisdom supported the claim, that the kamikaze fighters were doing severe damage to the Allied troops and that the war needed to end quickly.
Regardless, I was never convinced that the United States should be the first country to drop the bomb. The sheer devastation, not just immediately but in the aftermath, troubled me.
On this issue, I was affected greatly by two pieces from the arts. One was the 1983 documentary Atomic Cafe. “Disturbing collection of 1940s and 1950s United States government issued propaganda films designed to reassure Americans that the atomic bomb was not a threat to their safety.” It reviewed quite well.
You can watch Atomic Cafe at Snagfilms.com or Vimeo or Documentary Storm, or elsewhere. It also had a nifty soundtrack, which I have on vinyl, and you should seek out these songs.
The other item was Hadashi no Gen, or Barefoot Gen: A Cartoon Story of Hiroshima by Keiji Nakazawa, which “recounts the bombing of Hiroshima from the perspective of a young boy, Gen, and his family. But the book’s themes (the physical and psychological damage ordinary people suffer from war’s realities) ring chillingly true today.”
“Leonard Rifas’ EduComics (together with World Color Press) published it [in 1976] as Gen of Hiroshima, the ‘first full-length translation of a manga from Japanese into English to be published in the West.’ It was unpopular, however, and the series was cancelled after two volumes.” I have those two issues.
Much more recently, I read The Real Reason America Dropped The Atomic Bomb. It Was Not To End The War.
A couple salient sections:
Here’s what General/President Dwight Eisenhower had to say about it in his 1963 memoir, The White House Years: Mandate for Change, 1953-1956 (pp. 312-313):
“Japan was already defeated and that dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary, and secondly, 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. It was my belief that Japan was, at that very moment, seeking some way to surrender with a minimum loss of “face.”
Here is a quote from Deputy Director of the Office of Naval Intelligence, Ellis Zacharias:
“Just when the Japanese were ready to capitulate, we went ahead and introduced to the world the most devastating weapon it had ever seen and, in effect, gave the go-ahead to Russia to swarm over Eastern Asia. Washington decided that Japan had been given its chance and now it was time to use the A-bomb. I submit that it was the wrong decision. It was wrong on strategic grounds. And it was wrong on humanitarian grounds.”
There’s a lot more well-documented information there. Here’s hoping, “Never again.”