The Morality of Dropping the Atomic Bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki

Every August, there are some Americans who insist on wringing their hands over the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, so it was perhaps inevitable that such people would have an orgy of wallowing in guilt on the 60th anniversary of that tragic day. Time magazine has page after page of photographs of people scarred by the radiation, as if General Sherman had not already said long ago that war is hell.

Winston Churchill once spoke of the secrets of the atom, “hitherto mercifully withheld from man.” We can all lament that this terrible power of mass destruction has been revealed to the world and fear its ominous consequences for us all, including our children and grandchildren. But that is wholly different from saying that a great moral evil was committed when the first atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

What was new about these bombs was the technology, not the morality. More people were killed with ordinary bombs in German cities or in Tokyo. Vastly more people were killed with ordinary bullets and cannon on the Russian front. Morality is about what you do to people, not the technology you use.

The guilt-mongers have twisted the facts of history beyond recognition in order to say that it was unnecessary to drop those atomic bombs. Japan was going to lose the war anyway, they say. What they don’t say is — at what price in American lives? Or even in Japanese lives?

Much of the self-righteous nonsense that abounds on so many subjects cannot stand up to three questions: (1) Compared to what? (2) At what cost? and (3) What are the hard facts?

The alternative to the atomic bombs was an invasion of Japan, which was already being planned for 1946, and those plans included casualty estimates even more staggering than the deaths that have left a sea of crosses in American cemeteries at Normandy and elsewhere. “Revisionist” historians have come up with casualty estimates a small fraction of what the American and British military leaders responsible for planning the invasion of Japan had come up with.

Who are we to believe, those who had personally experienced the horrors of the war in the Pacific, and who had a lifetime of military experience, or leftist historians hot to find something else to blame America for?

During the island-hopping war in the Pacific, it was not uncommon for thousands of Japanese troops to fight to the death on an island, while the number captured were a few dozen. Even some Japanese soldiers too badly wounded to stand would lie where they fell until an American medical corpsman approached to treat their wounds — and then they would set off a grenade to kill them both.

In the air the same spirit led the kamikaze pilots to deliberately crash their planes into American ships and bombers.

Japan’s plans for defense against invasion involved mobilizing the civilian population, including women and children, for the same suicidal battle tactics. That invasion could have been the greatest bloodbath in history.

No mass killing, especially of civilians, can leave any humane person happy. But compared to what? Compared to killing many times more Japanese and seeing many times more American die?

We might have gotten a negotiated peace if we had dropped the “unconditional surrender” demand. But at what cost? Seeing a militaristic Japan arise again in a few years, this time armed with nuclear weapons that they would not have hesitated for one minute to drop on Americans.

As it was, the unconditional surrender of Japan enabled General Douglas MacArthur to engineer one of the great historic transformations of a nation from militarism to pacifism, to the relief of hundreds of millions of their neighbors, who had suffered horribly at the hands of their Japanese conquerors.

The facts may deprive the revisionists of their platform for lashing out at America and for the ego trip of moral preening but, fear not, they will find or manufacture other occasions for that. The rest of us need to understand what irresponsible frauds they are — and how the stakes are too high to let the 4th estate succeed as a 5th column undermining the society on which our children and grandchildren’s security will depend.

  • Tom Barter

    It’s always delightful to be met with a rational argument.

  • David

    If the dropping of the atomic bomb “saved” lives in the long run, then how can the United States justify having NOT dropped an atomic bomb on North Korean instead of engaging in the Korean War and NOT dropping a bomb on Hanoi prior to engaging in the Vietnam War? Wouldn’t the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C., with all the names of those young men etched into the stone in small font, be much shorter had we nuked Hanoi much earlier instead of engaging in a protracted conflict? The reason we did NOT use an atomic bomb in either the Korean or Vietnam conflicts is because BOTH those countries were communist supported and, at that time, the Soviets and Chinese BOTH had nukes of their own. We feared a retaliatory attack had we used nukes. In other words, the U.S. is only comfortable using atomic bombs when they are assured our enemies do not have atomic bombs of their own.

    Should we really be looking for devastating ways to make war more efficient under the guise that it “saves lives in the long run”? Perhaps wars SHOULD be painful and costly. Maybe THAT should be the deterrent to engaging in them.

  • writeby

    “Perhaps wars SHOULD be painful and costly. Maybe THAT should be the deterrent to engaging in them.”

    War is that to those nations that prize freedom and its effect, prosperity. But not to those who seek power over others, war is a means and always will be.

    It is they who must suffer war’s devastation. Unfortunately, after WWII, the U.S. chose a foreign policy that ignored that fact because it placed the lives of the enemy above the self-interest of American freedom.

    So when Mac asked Truman for battlefield nukes to annihilate the Red Chinese army attacking American forces at Chosin, Truman refused. Slow retreat into stalemate, over a half century of despotism and executions in the North and now a nuclear North Korea the result.

    Likewise and for the same reasons, LBJ forbade American forces beyond the DMZ. The result was a blood bath when the South fell and 50-years of despotism throughout that small country.

    In both cases, war was not declared. In Korea, it was a “U.N.” (read “coalition” in today’s terminology of evasion) action. In Vietnam, a “police” action by the U.S. to save the South from communism.

    Had Korea been declared and fought with nukes, Korea would be whole and free today; and Red China would have fallen–thus preventing the ocean of blood spilled by Mao (Hitler & Stalin’s rivulets by comparison) a decade later.

    Moreover, Vietnam would never had happened, we would not be facing threats from that part of the world; and–had we maintained that same uncompromising posture in our foreign policy throughout the following decades (which would have included *declaring war* before we attempted any military action)–oil wells in the Mideast would never have been nationalized, Iran’s Islamic revolt ’79 would’ve been squashed and 911 would never have happened.

    Talk about a “New World Order.”

  • jmjoker

    he’s right- bombing hiroshima and nagasaki was morally right

  • Joseph Jove

    Those atomic bombs were not necessary. They were dropped not to save American lives, but to intimidate the rest of the world into submitting to passive aggressive American dominance.

    Before the first bomb was unleashed, the Japanese were willing to surrender, due to them recognizing that the war had already been lost. In April 1945 a new government headed by Kantaro Suzuki took office with the mission of ending the war.

    Even before the new government took power.

    on January 20, 1945, two days prior to his meeting with Stalin and Churchill, President Roosevelt received a 40-page memo from General MacArthur outlining five separate surrenders from high-level Japanese officials.

    This memo showed that the Japanese were offering surrender terms almost identical to the ones ultimately accepted by the Americans at the surrender ceremony on September 2 — that is, complete surrender of everything but the person of the Emperor. The terms of these peace offers included:

    Complete surrender of all Japanese forces and arms, at home, on island possessions, and in occupied countries.

    Occupation of Japan and its possessions by Allied troops under American direction.

    Japanese relinquishment of all territory seized during the war, as well as Manchuria, Korea and Taiwan.

    Regulation of Japanese industry to halt production of any weapons and other tools of war.

    Release of all prisoners of war.

    Surrender of war criminals.

    Those surrenders were not accepted. Why? If it is true, that those bombs were unleashed to save American soldiers, why not accept surrender? Because it is a lie!

    On August 6, 1945, an American plane dropped a single nuclear bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. The explosion destroyed more than four square miles of the city. About 90,000 people were killed immediately; another 40,000 were injured, many died from radiation sickness. Three days later, a second atomic strike on the city of Nagasaki killed some 37,000 people and injured another 43,000. Together the two bombs killed an estimated 200,000 Japanese civilians.

    Who still believes those bombs were dropped to save American lives?

  • Joseph Jove

    Oh, I almost forgot. After the first bomb was dropped, Japanese civilians were so angry, that they killed American prisoners of war. The U.S. could have saved their lives, but they chose to murder more Japanese instead.

  • Joseph Jove

    The same could be said about our enemies. Islam has a right to murder American civilians. Right? If not, then what makes your family members more important than their family, in the eyes of Muslims.