The historiography of the atomic bomb can be roughly categorized into three camps: traditionalists, revisionists, and middle-ground “consensus” historians.  Traditionalists, also referred to as orthodox historians and post-revisionists, studying the atomic bomb generally accept the view posited by the Truman administration and articulated most clearly in Henry Stimson’s 1947 Harper’s Magazine article. In short, this argument assumes that the use of the atomic bombs against Japan was justifiable on military grounds in order to prevent a costly invasion of the Japanese home islands. Often attached to such analysis is the notion that insofar as the atomic bombs ended the war prior to an invasion and saved hundreds of thousands or millions of lives, the use of the atomic bombs was also a morally sound decision. There tends to be a remarkable level of homogeneity amongst the traditionalist arguments. Whereas they may emphasize certain facts or aspects of the debate, they tend to present strikingly similar arguments, with a few exceptions.
The revisionists, in contrast, tend to be far more heterogeneous. Revisionist historians are unconvinced by the official narrative, and tend to emphasize the alternatives to the atomic bomb not pursued by the Truman administration. Furthermore, most revisionists accept, on some level, the “atomic diplomacy” thesis articulated first by Gar Alperovitz in 1965. To one degree or another revisionists argue that the Truman administration purposefully chose not to pursue alternatives to ending the war and that post-war diplomatic concerns vis-à-vis the Soviet Union were germane to, and in some historian’s view dictated, the use of the atomic bombs.
The third camp, the consensus historians, are those who J. Samuel Walker refers to as having “reached a broad, though hardly unanimous, consensus on some key issues surrounding the use of the bomb.” These include the fact that Truman and his advisers were aware of alternatives that seemed likely to end the war, that invasion would likely not have been necessary, and that the atomic bomb did not save hundreds of thousands or millions of lives. What distinguishes them from the traditionalists is the argument that the atomic bombs were not a military necessity. On the other hand, their rejection or hesitancy to incorporate atomic diplomacy into their analysis differentiates them from the revisionists.
Given the nature of the three camps, the organizational framework I have utilized includes three sections. The first section will deal with the debate between traditionalists and revisionists. It will focus on questions of atomic diplomacy, the Potsdam Conference, unconditional surrender, Soviet entry into the war, projected casualty figures, and certain key figures in the Truman administration, the Soviet Union, and Japan. The second section will examine the points of disagreement within the revisionist camp. Although revisionists all challenge the orthodox position, they are significantly less homogenous than the latter. The third section of the essay will explore the consensus historians and their disagreements with both the traditionalists and the revisionists. Given the level of unanimity amongst the traditionalist historians, it is unnecessary to dedicate a section exploring differences between them because with rare exceptions, which will be noted when appropriate, there is remarkably little disagreement. The essay will conclude with a brief analysis of the authors, such as Robert Newman and Paul Boyer, who have extended their chronological framework significantly beyond the actual use of the atomic bombs.
The Traditionalists vs. the Revisionists
The five monographs within the traditionalist camp that will be analyzed here are Robert James Maddox’sWeapons for Victory: The Hiroshima Decision (2004), Robert P. Newman’sTruman and the Hiroshima Cult (1995), Richard B. Frank’s Downfall: The End of the Imperial Japanese Empire (1999), Paul D. Walker’sTruman’s Dilemma: Invasion or the Bomb (2003), and Wilson D. Miscamble’s The Most Controversial Decision: Truman, the Atomic Bombs, and the Defeat of Japan (2011). On the other side of the debate are four revisionist historians, including Gar Alperovitz’s The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb and the Architecture of an American Myth (1995), Martin J. Sherwin’s A World Destroyed: Hiroshima and Its Legacies (2003), Ronald Takaki’s Hiroshima: Why America Dropped the Atomic Bomb (1995), and Tsuyoshi Hasegawa’s Racing the Enemy: Stalin, Truman, and the Surrender of Japan (2005). The positions of the traditionalists and the revisionists regarding atomic diplomacy, the Potsdam Conference, Japanese surrender, the unconditional surrender policy, Soviet entry into the war, projected casualty figures, and key individuals involved in the decision to use the bomb and Japanese surrender are fundamentally at odds.
The question of atomic diplomacy is what creates the fundamental divide between the two camps. Although there is great variation between revisionist and traditionalist positions on unconditional surrender, the role and race and racism, and other factors, most questions tend to be subsumed within and intricately bound up with atomic diplomacy. Since the revisionists first posited this thesis, it is appropriate to adumbrate their arguments. Objecting to the official narrative that “Truman simply had no choice except to use the atomic bomb,” Alperovitz argues that Truman, significantly influenced by James Byrnes, used the bomb as a form of “atomic diplomacy” to pursue post-war U.S. interests in both Europe and Asia. In essence, Alperovitz argues that the U.S. government “generally understood” that “Japan was defeated and preparing to surrender before the bomb was used.”  According to Alperovitz there was a “quite general” notion amongst U.S. officials at Potsdam that the bomb would strengthen U.S. diplomacy vis-à-vis the Soviet Union. It was during this time that “a conscious decision not to encourage Soviet participation in the war” was undertaken. Attempts “to delay the Red Army’s attack to the extent feasible” were meant to “limit Soviet political influence in Asia.” For Alperovitz atomic diplomacy is the crucial element in explaining the use of the bomb.
Martin Sherwin supplements Alperovitz’s atomic diplomacy thesis by extending the importance of such diplomatic concerns backwards into the Roosevelt administration. Sherwin posits that the policies of the Roosevelt administration suggest “that the diplomatic value of the bomb began to shape his atomic energy policies as early as 1943.” Although Sherwin cites Roosevelt’s elusive decision making process and sudden death as inhibitors to fully understanding his policy, he posits that Roosevelt “consistently opposed international control and acted in accordance with Churchill’s monopolistic, anti-Soviet views.” Ronald Takaki, despite emphasizing the role of race and racism in the decision, also concedes that atomic diplomacy was indeed a factor. He notes the “incredible pressure” on Manhattan project scientists to complete the bombs prior to the Potsdam conference. Similarly, he explains how Truman purposefully postponed the conference to coincide with the bomb tests. Takaki maintains that two “schools of thought” dominated the thinking of U.S. officials, including the “quid-pro-quo” strategy, articulated by people like Henry Stimson, and the “monopoly” strategy a la James Byrnes.  In Tsuyoshi Hasegawa’s view, the Potsdam Proclamation was not a warning to Japan, but an attempt to justify the use of the bomb.
Hasegawa’s argument aligns with Alperovitz’s as well. He maintains that a “race” began at Potsdam between the United States and the Soviet Union when the Soviets set August 15 as their projected state of entry into the war. This “gave American policymakers a definite deadline to work for.”  Thus, the timing of the Potsdam Proclamation was “integrally connected with the schedule for deployment of the atomic bombs.” The Truman administration desired to end the war via the atomic bombs in order to avoid Soviet entry and maintain hegemony in the Pacific in the post-war world. Therefore, the Truman-Byrnes commitment to unconditional surrender and the Potsdam declaration was simply a prelude to the use of the atomic bombs. Byrnes position was essentially: “if we insisted on unconditional surrender, we could justify dropping of the atomic bomb.” Concerned about the post-war political consequences of Soviet participation in the war, U.S. planners sought to bring about Japan’s surrender before the Soviets could join. At best, Soviet participation in the war was an “insurance policy” in case the atomic tests failed.
Thus, the revisionist position is quite clear. Officials in the United States were deeply concerned about post-war hegemony, particularly in the Pacific but in Europe as well, and saw the use of the atomic bomb against Japan as a way to contain the Soviet Union. Subsequently, any and all alternatives that could have ended the war, albeit not in time to prevent Soviet entry, were disregarded and not pursued. This conclusion is often premised on the fact that Japan was already defeated and near surrender. Alperovitz argues that “Japan was defeated and preparing to surrender before the atomic bomb was used. Though the question of timing was in dispute, it is also certain that this was generally understood in the U.S. government at the time.”  Hasegawa contends that the “Soviet entry into the war played a greater role than the atomic bombs in inducing Japan to surrender” and, as such, the Japanese would have quickly surrendered upon Soviet entry even without the use of the atomic bombs.
It is on these grounds that the traditionalists most vehemently challenge the revisionists. Robert James Maddox challenged what he saw as “blatant revisionist distortions” in order to construct his argument that the single-most decisive factor in forcing the Japanese to surrender and preventing a costly land invasion of Japan was the use of the atomic bombs. Whereas Alperovitz maintained that the casualty figures for a land invasion were inflated as post-war justifications by the Truman administration, Maddox suggests that the half-a-million figure “cited by Truman, and even higher ones, were circulated within the upper echelons of government.” For Maddox bombs were utilized out of military necessity because the Japanese would not have surrendered without the atomic destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Indeed, according to Maddox the “very idea of surrender was alien to the Japanese samurai tradition.” Furthermore, ULTRA intercepts suggest surrender prior to an invasion was not even a serious option, let alone inevitable. Richard Frank goes even further, arguing that the conclusions the revisionist reach regarding the MAGIC are erroneous because they ignore the fact that Japanese peace feelers were completely “want of official sanction.”  Thus, the “thesis that Japan was actively seeking to surrender in 1945, and that American policy makers knew this primarily from code breaking,” is rejected by the traditionalists.
Robert Newman concurs with this analysis, adding that most “Hiroshima cultists,” including Gar Alperovitz, P. M. S. Blackett, Paul Boyer, the Smithsonian exhibit authors, and others who “swallow this conclusion of the [United States Strategic Bombing Survey] whole” are incorrect because the study itself was extremely flawed.  Information in the survey was purposefully distorted to support conclusions already arrived at a priori by Paul Nitze, and the testimony of most high-ranking Japanese officials “overwhelmingly indicated that Japan was not about to surrender before the bomb.” Thus, the “Truman bashers” are incorrect to argue that the bomb changed no minds. In fact, according to Newman it “created a situation in which the peace party and the emperor could prevail.”  Wilson Miscamble also views himself as “exploding permanently the myth of a Japan ready to surrender,” a “myth” perpetuated by the United States Strategic Bombing Survey of 1946. 
Richard Frank furthers this argument by explaining that Japan’s “fundamental policy,” based on the Ketsu-Go defense plan, was a national resistance program intended to bloody the invading enemy enough to force political negotiations and ipso facto avoid unconditional surrender. Frank relies heavily upon the document produced by the Big Six entitled “The Fundamental Policy to Be Followed Henceforth in the Conduct of the War,” which argued Japan “must fight to the finish and choose extinction before surrender.” In essence, Japan was “effectively locked on course for a fight to the last man, woman, and child.” Furthermore, Frank continues this theme, arguing that the goal was to “severely bloody the invaders” to the point of achieving political goals. Ultra documents, according to Frank, did much to “unmask their carefully wrought plans.” The forces on Kyushu far exceeded the 350,000 number given to Truman. Indeed, by November 1 Japanese strength would be 680,000, much closer to the 1:1 ration of American to Japanese soldiers that U.S. leaders desperately wanted to avoid. Paul Walker takes this argument to its logical extreme. He argues that due the 35 percent casualty rate of the Iwo Jima and Okinawa battles, as well as the “fanaticism of the Japanese military and their updated code of Bushido,” casualties would have ranged from around 250,000 in the invasion of Kyushu alone, to over one million with the invasion of both Kyushu and Honshu. Miscamble maintains that “retrospective castigations” like William D. Leahy’s memoirs in 1950, which denounced the atomic bomb as a “modern type of barbarism not worthy of Christian man,” can be dismissed since “no military officials counseled the president against using the weapons prior to Hiroshima.” Maddox concurs, explaining that despite the retroactive denunciations of the atomic bomb by top-ranking military officials, no military officials seriously attempted to guide Truman away from using the bomb prior to its deployment. The fact that the bomb was utilized out of military necessity dismisses the “gravest charge against Truman,” namely that the atomic bomb was deployed “primary as a diplomatic weapon to intimidate the Soviet Union.”
The question of Soviet entry into the war preoccupies an important space in the discourse as well. Tsuyoshi Hasegawa maintains that “Soviet entry into the war played a greater role than the atomic bombs in inducing Japan to surrender.” Interestingly, Maddox claims the Soviets invaded Manchuria not to be “a good ally” but rather “to get in on the kill,” an analysis Hasegawa would largely share. However, where the revisionists and the traditionalists differ, is that most traditionalists seriously downplay the role of Soviet entry into the war. In Frank’s narrative, “Soviet intervention was a significant but not decisive reason for Japan’s surrender… reinforcing but not fundamental.” Miscamble maintains that revisionist historians who emphasize Soviet entry in the war “distort history by overemphasizing” its importance. According to Miscamble, Hasegawa’s claim that Truman was disappointed at the Soviet entry into the war “are not substantiated by the historical evidence.”  Paul Walker points out that when the emperor finally surrendered on August 15, 1945, the Russian invasion was not mentioned as a cause of surrender. Hasegawa counters this point by citing “another historic document” written by Sakomizu’s  assistant and sanctioned by the emperor that was not issued until August 17. This re-script explained that if Japan continued fighting after the entrance of the Soviet Union into the war it would endanger “the very foundation of the empire’s existence,”  reinforcing Hasegawa’s claim that Soviet intervention was key.
Perhaps the most creative defense of the use of the atomic bomb from the traditionalist camp is the moral one. One of the primary objectives of Wilson Miscamble is to “confront the question regarding the morality of the atomic bomb.” Miscamble suggests that for Byrnes and Truman “moral complexity or future diplomatic implications failed to complicate their straight forward thinking.” If the atomic bomb “might save American lives” then it must be used, and this “remained, throughout, the essential motivation that guided the decision.”  Whereas revisionists argue that Japan was defeated, he makes a stark distinction between defeat and surrender, explaining that the U.S. would have eventually won the war by “continued obliteration bombing of Japanese cities and infrastructure, a choking blockade, the terrible invasions… [and these] would have meant significantly greater Allied casualties and much higher Japanese civilian and military casualties.” Likewise, the abrupt end to the war also brought an end to Japanese brutality in other parts of Asia. Furthermore, “indiscriminate bombing had become the norm for the Anglo-American forces well before 1945,” indicating that any “moral Rubicon” had already been crossed prior to Hiroshima. Thus, the bomb was the “lesser of the evils available,” and subsequently Miscamble pleas that in “future anniversaries of the dropping of the atomic bomb… one might hope for less moralizing condemnation of Truman’s decision… Perhaps there might even be some empathy for the man who felt required to make the decision and who carried the burden of it.”
Robert Newman makes a slightly less sophisticated moral defense, proclaiming that neither “Hiroshima cultists nor professional moralists had even considered the possibility that Hiroshima and Nagasaki were legitimate retribution for the millions of deaths caused by Japan’s fourteen-year rampage through China and the Pacific,” an idea he apparently entertains. Newman suggests that the atomic bombs were moral actions taken in order to prevent greater evil. According to him the general arguments against Truman’s choice to use the bomb come in four general varieties: first, atomic bombs are intrinsically evil and should not be used; second, their use violated the principle of noncombatant immunity; third, the bombs were used on invalid motives, including retribution, revenge, and reprisal; and fourth, no specific warning was given. To the first, Newman responds that “the case for immorality of today’s overkill arsenals and war fighting doctrines is strong,” but “to apply the same case retrospectively to 1945, however, is senseless.” To the second, Newman quotes Bamba Nobuya to suggest that the “Marxist interpretation of imperialistic war,” namely that “the ‘people’ should have been innocent,” is incorrect. The Japanese population did not just passively support imperialism, “on the contrary, most people competed to get front seats on the fascist bandwagon.”  Thus, they were not noncombatants and to attack them was legitimate. To the third point Newman maintains that because the Japanese were involved in developing atomic weapons as well, even though U.S. leaders were not aware of this at the time, it retroactively justifies the decision. Since “upwards of 250,000 people… would have died each month the Japanese Empire struggled in its death throes beyond July 1945,” and since the bomb had the ability to end the war early, it could not have been used for the wrong reasons. To the last point, he responds that the shock value of the bomb was decisive in ending the war, and thus it would have been ineffective and prolonged the war to issue the warning.
Finally, the issue of culture and its relationship to policies of surrender are intricately bound up in the traditionalist narrative. For Paul Walker, a key element of the war was the “barbarism, savageness, and race hatred” of “an oriental enemy with a brutal heritage.”  According to Walker, the Japanese in World War II “believed they were fighting in the proud traditions of their samurai ancestors.” This ideological reliance upon “a version of Bushido” meant that military schools taught “a perverted cult of death” which made “young Japanese men expendable numbers for the military’s reckless and costly adventures.”  Tracing Japanese history from the Forty Seven Ronin to the Meiji Restoration and beyond, Walker paints a picture of uniform brutality and aggression. This culminates in the period from 1894 to 1945, where “Japan was involved in almost constant warfare with her neighbors.” Since being a prisoner of war was “completely unacceptable, considered dishonorable or shameful, and contrary to the samurai code,” the Japanese were essentially automatons that fought to the death. In contrast with U.S. imperialism, where “Filipinos had a positive image of America” and U.S. intervention in Vietnam “sorted itself out,” Japanese imperialism was infinitely more brutal, according to Walker. This notion that the Japanese were imbued with fanaticism and the ideology of Bushido, which permeated their consciousness for centuries, is an important part of Walker’s thesis because it attempts to reinforce the notion that the toll of casualties would be great in a U.S. invasion of Japan. Miscamble suggests a similar theme, explaining that the “the twisted neo-samurai … geared up with true banzai spirit to engage the whole population in a kind of national kamikaze campaign.”  Maddox is slightly less crude, suggesting that that the “very idea of surrender was alien to the Japanese samurai tradition.”
Thus, within the traditionalist camp one finds a remarkable degree of unanimity. While some authors, such as Miscamble and Newman, focus on the moral argument, others, such as Maddox, implore the military aspect. Others still emphasize the “savage” culture of the “Oriental enemy” a la Paul Walker. Yet, all of the traditionalists tend to converge in their main analysis. There is little disagreement among them on any vital issues. In one way this greatly distinguishes them from the revisionist camp, which presents a quite heterogeneous and diverse array of analyses.
The Revisionist Camp
The traditionalists and revisionists part ways on the fundamental divide of atomic diplomacy. Within the traditionalist camp arguments are largely convergent, whereas within the revisionists camp the nuances are far more pronounced. All tend to agree that some level of atomic diplomacy was in play. Most, however, disagree on a variety of other issues. Gar Alperovitz and Martin Sherwin heavily emphasize the role of atomic diplomacy. In contrast, Takaki suggests race and racism as primary variables. Hasegawa maintains that an “international” perspective is vital, and criticizes past revisionists for heavily focusing on leaders in Washington. As Gar Alperovitz is the first and quintessential revisionist, much of the internal discussion amongst revisionists is characterized by correcting, expanding, or challenging certain assumptions Alperovitz has made.
The first distinction of analysis can be seen in the characterization of the Roosevelt and the Truman administration. Alperovitz imbues individual political actors, particularly Harry Truman and his adviser James Byrnes, with immense agency over the use of the bomb. He warns against “analyses which assert that a combination of factors-political, military, racial, and financial-produced the decision.” He also makes the case against “momentum theories,” which may have “an odd feeling of seeming plausibility about them,” but which go against the evidence that top U.S. military officials were against the bombing. Throughout his work it is stressed that individual political actors were absolutely fundamental in the decision, and that no sort of “momentum theory” is capable of capturing the dynamics of the top-level discussions that led to the final decision. Alperovitz emphasizes the importance of the Truman-Byrnes relationship, implicitly suggesting that the outcome may have been different with Roosevelt in office.
Martin Sherwin articulates a somewhat distinct argument that draws a strong line of continuity between the Roosevelt and Truman administrations. For Sherwin, an “analysis of the policies [Roosevelt] chose… suggests that the diplomatic value of the bomb began to shape his atomic energy policies as early as 1943.” Although Sherwin cites Roosevelt’s elusive decision making process and sudden death as inhibitors to fully understanding his policy, he posits that Roosevelt “consistently opposed international control and acted in accordance with Churchill’s monopolistic, anti-Soviet views.” He concludes that Roosevelt’s commitment to amicable postwar relations with the Soviets has “often been exaggerated,” and that “his prescriptions for the diplomatic role of the atomic bomb… reveal a carefully guarded skepticism regarding the Grand Alliance’s prospects for surviving the war intact.” Thus, Sherwin argues that Truman did not “inherit the question” of whether to employ the bomb as a means of atomic diplomacy, but he “inherited the answer” since by 1943 the diplomatic value of the bomb had already begun to shape atomic energy policies. The decision to use the bomb, and its diplomatic implications, were prescribed by Roosevelt. Truman’s decisions were more or less technical, revolving around how specifically to use the bomb. Where Alperovitz has attempted to present a break or disconnect between what he perceives as Roosevelt’s uncertain and wavering atomic policies, Sherwin presents a forceful analysis suggesting strong continuity between the two administrations.
A second point of contention amongst revisionists is the role of race and racism in the decision to use the bomb. Here Alperovitz argues that while “it is certainly possible” that racism amongst U.S. officials played a role in the decision to drop the bomb, “it is all but impossible to find specific evidence that racism was an important factor.” In contrast, while Takaki adopts Alperovitz’s notion of atomic diplomacy, he drastically parts with him on the issue of race. Takaki’s primary focus is understanding the decision within the trajectory of US racism.  In this regard, it seems his argument is best encapsulated when he declares, borrowing from John Dower, that “in this ‘war without mercy,’ Truman made the deadly mushroom cloud of ‘Manhattan’ appear over Japan in order to destroy an enemy he regarded as ‘a beast’.” Takaki explicates upon the “racialization of the Pacific War,” positioning it within the historic context of racism and US expansionism. After briefly addressing Japanese notions of racial superiority, Takaki attempts to place Truman’s decision to use the atomic bombs within the “sociological imagination” of anti-Japanese racism in US society. In doing so, he links the war in the Pacific to earlier periods of conquest. His analysis focuses on the complex processes by which the US idea of democracy was intricately bound up with westward expansion and slavery, all institutions saturated with racialized notions of superiority. Citing the Chinese Exclusion Act, “Yellow Peril” hysteria, the American Federation of Labor anti-Japanese agitation, and the Asiatic Exclusion League, Takaki draws a long line of continuity culminating in the internment of Japanese Americans and the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. For Takaki, notions of racial superiority and anti-Asian racism were key variables in the “sociological imagination” which facilitated the bombing of hundreds of thousands of civilians. It is in this context of a society deeply permeated with both institutional and individual racism that Truman’s actions must be analyzed. Takaki analyzes Truman’s biography, emphasizing the implicit notions of racial superiority deeply embedded in him and his family of ex-slave owners. Takaki outlines Truman’s broadly anti-Asian sentiments, such as in 1911 when he explained that he “does hate Chinese and Japs” and that the “yellow men [ought to be] in Asia.”  By 1945, Truman referred to the “Japs” as “savages, ruthless, merciless and fanatic.” Thus, the “sociological imagination” was a highly racialized one that helped rationalize the slaughter of innocent Japanese civilians in the minds of men like Truman.
Tsuyoshi Hasegawa also takes Alperovitz to task on more than one occasion. Throughout Racing the Enemy he points out that he views his work as a corrective to the mistakes of revisionist historians. As he explains, the “sharp division between revisionist and orthodox historians in the Unites States” has failed to address the crucial international dimension because “the main point of contention is over American perceptions of Soviet intentions” that “depict Soviet actions as a sideshow and assign to Moscow a secondary role at best.” Furthermore, although Hasegawa is certainly not an orthodox historian, he is mildly critical of the revisionists who have preceded him: “Although much of what revisionist historians argue is faulty and based on tendentious use of sources, they nonetheless deserve credit for raising an important moral issue that challenges the standard American narrative of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.” Thus, Hasegawa strengthens the revisionist narrative by correcting some of the errors and increasing the attention to the international dynamic at work.
Alperovitz in large part bases his argument on the conclusions of the 1946 United States Strategic Bombing Survey which argued that Japan “would likely have surrender in 1945 without atomic bombing, without a Soviet declaration of war, and without an American invasion.”  In contrast with Alperovitz and most other revisionist historians who uncritically accept the United States Strategic Bombing Survey’s conclusion, Hasegawa maintains that “defeat and surrender are not synonymous,” and Paul Nitze’s “conclusion was repeatedly contradicted by the evidence in the Survey itself.” He largely accepts the critique of the USSBS findings put forward by Barton Bernstein. Instead, he argues that “even without the atomic bombs, the war most likely would have ended shortly after Soviet entry into the war-before November 1.” Strangely, Hasegawa tends to overemphasize his departure from Alperovitz on this point, or he must have simply overlooked Alperovitz contention that, even had the atomic bomb not been used, it is “almost a certainty that the Japanese would have capitulated upon the entry of Russia into the war.”
On a number of other points Hasegawa and Alperovitz certainly do disagree, however. Whereas Alperovitz characterizes the Sino-Soviet negotiations between Stalin and the Nationalists as a U.S. ploy to prolong Russian entry in the war, Hasegawa responds that in the Sino-Soviet negotiations, the “interests of Truman, Stalin, and Chiang Kai-shek all converged: the successful conclusion of a Sino-Soviet treaty could make everyone happy.”  Hasegawa does not view the difficult negotiating by the Chinese as a concocted plot by the U.S. to keep the Soviets out of the war. “Revisionist historians are wrong,” Hasegawa explains, “in asserting that Harriman’s actions were meant to pressure Soong to resist Stalin’s demand in order to prevent Soviet entry into the war against Japan.” Likewise, throughout his work Hasegawa repeatedly attempts to re-characterize Byrnes as someone not nearly as bent on geopolitical conflict with the Soviet Union as other revisionist historians have made him out to be. For instance, in response to the Soviet Kurils Operation as part of August Storm, Hasegawa argues that Byrnes, “though often regarded by revisionist historians as an ardent advocate for a tough stance against the Soviet Union… favored a conciliatory position on this issue.” Thus, the internecine differences amongst the revisionists exist. They are not nearly as pronounced or as heated as the differences between the traditionalists and the revisionists, but significantly more obvious than any real disagreement amongst traditionalist scholars.
Consensus Historians vs. The Traditionalists and the Revisionists
Between the traditionalist and revisionist historians lay a murky “middle ground” that encompasses a group of scholars who posit quite different arguments regarding the atomic bomb but tend to share in common a notion that alternatives existed. These “consensus” historians, as J. Samuel Walker refers to them,  in some way suggest that Truman and his advisers were aware of alternatives that seemed likely to end the war. The “consensus” historians reject the traditionalist argument that the atomic bombs were a military necessity and at the same time greatly distance themselves from the atomic diplomacy thesis. Samuel Walker’sPrompt and Utter Destruction: Truman and the Use of the Atomic Bombs Against Japan (1997), Dennis Wainstock’sThe Decision to Drop the Atomic Bomb: Hiroshima and Nagasaki (1996), and Sean L. Malloy’s Atomic Tragedy: Henry L. Stimson and the Decision to Use the Bomb Against Japan (2008) form the core of this “consensus” or middle ground camp.
Dennis Wainstock argues that the policy of unconditional surrender was a “policy of revenge, and it hurt America’s national self-interest.”  He continues, suggesting that had the United States given Japan conditional surrender terms, including retention of the emperor, Japan would have surrendered significantly earlier than it did. This means that neither the atomic bombs nor Soviet intervention would have been required. By prolonging the war in Europe and East Asia the policy of unconditional surrender expanded Soviet power in both areas, thereby harming U.S. interests. The dropping of the atomic bomb only “hastened the surrender of an already defeated enemy.”  Wainstock does not neatly align with either the traditionalist or revisionist camp. First, he aligns his critique of unconditional surrender within “U.S. national interests.” His emphasis is that unconditional surrender unnecessarily prolonged the war, and Truman’s commitment to it subsequently harmed U.S. interests since the prolonged war eventually allowed the Soviet Union to enter the arena and exercise increased influence in East Asia. This “policy of revenge [unconditional surrender]… hurt America’s national self-interest” because it “prolonged the war… and helped to expand Soviet power.”
It is in this way that Wainstock differs sharply from all of the traditionalists who, in one way or another defend the policy of unconditional surrender. Whereas Paul Walker, Richard Frank, and Wilson Miscamble tend to be generally supportive of the unconditional surrender policy, James Maddox, in a rather reserved way, argues that “there is no way of telling whether the doctrine prolonged the war in any way.”  Robert Newman is Wainstock’s primary adversary in this regard, however. Newman argues two main points: first, Truman “had no good reason” to believe that permitting retention of the emperor would have led to early capitulation and, second, the “Potsdam Declaration defined surrender in a fashion acceptable to the Japanese peace forces.” To “those who insist that unconditional surrender was a purely punitive stance,” he proclaims that the “leaders of the Japanese peace party… saw in the Potsdam terms an acceptable alternative to the destruction Japan would otherwise sustain.” The reason that Truman eventually accepted the condition that the emperor be retained was, according to Newman, because “peace was too tantalizing to resist.”  In the end, however, Newman is sure that retaining the emperor, “what Hiroshima cultists insist was a viable alternative for Truman to end the war early… was really no alternative at all.” Furthermore, the conditions outlined at Potsdam were not unconditional surrender, and the Japanese knew it. Thus, for Newman the entire thesis constructed by Wainstock rests on dubious grounds.
Regarding his differences with the revisionists, Wainstock concedes that “perhaps Truman’s decision to drop the bombs was an attempt to both impress the Soviets… and to end the war before the Soviets entered and seize the Far Eastern territories.” Even if this were true, however, it was totally counterproductive since in the end it prolonged the war and allowed Soviet entry, something that could have been prevented by altering the policy. This brief commentary is all the space that Wainstock provides for the atomic diplomacy thesis. In other words, despite accepting that atomic diplomacy may have played some minor role, Wainstock contends that a blind policy of unconditional surrender was of prime importance in the decision. This is where his greatest disagreement comes to the fore with the revisionists, and in particular Hasegawa. Hasegawa contends that even if Truman had “accepted a provision in the Potsdam declaration allowing the Japanese to retain a constitutional monarchy,” it would “not have immediately led to Japan’s surrender.” It is doubtful, Hasegawa maintains, “that Japan would have capitulated before the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima and the Soviet Union entered the war.” Thus, whereas the policy of unconditional surrender is the fundamental variable for Wainstock, it is significantly less so for Hasegawa. Wainstock significantly minimizes the significance of atomic diplomacy and inflates the importance of the unconditional surrender policy.
Sean Malloy, like Takaki, attempts to analyze the decision to use the atomic bomb through the “lens of biography.”  Malloy attempts to approach “the use of the bomb through a conceptual framework he calls the “context of use,” positioning the use of the bomb as a “compound product of a series of choices” rather than “the result of single decision.”  Malloy makes the argument that Stimson, as secretary of war, unintentionally “presided over a set of policies that accelerated the budding nuclear arms race with the Soviet Union,” despite his “deep concern with limiting the effects of war on civilians and fostering trust between nations as the foundation of the peace that followed.”  In essence, realpolitik dominated Stimson’s approach to the atomic bomb and undermined his moral commitments.
One example of this is Stimson’s oversight of the 1945 Stassfurt operation intended to secure Anglo-American hegemony over uranium supplies. By the time of Strassfurt, when the U.S. moved in to seize the largest known stock of uranium in Europe, they “did as so as part of a one-sided nuclear arms race” in which, “by 1945, the Soviet Union was already America’s primary nuclear rival.” Thus, while Stimson is the tragic hero with a fatal flaw, James Byrnes is his foil, presented as the bad apple in the administration who desires conflict with the Soviet Union. Malloy’s key argument, then, is that “by his own actions during World War II, the secretary of war had helped to set in motion exactly the kind of destructive international competition in armaments that he had spent much of his long public career attempting to avoid.”  The almost capricious nature of his rapidly changing positions, and the tenuous justifications which frequently accompanied them, indicates that Stimson’s moral convictions were more often than not drown out for the sake of political expediency. Malloy’s conception of the atomic bomb as a “tragedy” is the principle departure from the traditionalists who tend to glorify the use of the bomb and celebrate it for ending the war and saving lives.
Malloy’s differences with the revisionist camp are rather nuanced, but significant. Once again, his conception of the bombs as a “tragedy,” rather than a calculated diplomatic initiative, separates him from the revisionists. Second, he makes the argument that the secretary of war “was in a unique position to shape many of the decisions about the use of the bomb.” This is in direct contradistinction to other historians, such as Alperovitz, who emphasize the agency of actors such as James Byrnes at Stimson’s expense. Second, Malloy attempts to put forward a sort of “momentum theory” that Alperovitz considers “seemingly plausible” but in reality historically bankrupt. During the various decisions that led to the atomic bombing, the morals and convictions of officials were often sublimated for political expediency. For Malloy, this was particularly true of Stimson. In this way, a sort of “momentum theory” is employed by Malloy to mitigate the pernicious intent of certain actors and explain away the “failures” of their decisions. Thus, the atomic bombs were not intentionally used as diplomatic tools by most of the Truman administration, but policy “failures” as individuals were swept up in events. Further modifying the arguments of Alperovitz and Hasegawa, Malloy argues that “American domestic politics” were a primary reason that Truman “failed at Potsdam” to use the “two potentially useful, if imperfect, diplomatic levers… in an effort to end the war.”  Furthermore, whereas Hasegawa presents Soviet entry as vital, Mallow suggests that “neither the public threat of Soviet entry nor the lure of allowing the Japanese to retain the emperor after the war were diplomatic panaceas.”  Thus, Malloy’s differences with the revisionists are perceptible.
A slightly different approach is apparent in J. Samuel Walker’s book. He sets out to answer two interrelated questions: was the bomb “necessary at all” and, “if so, what exactly did it accomplish?” By the conclusion of the book, Walker asserts that the answer to the first question “seems to be yes and no. Yes, it was necessary to end the war as quickly as possible. No, it was not necessary to prevent an invasion of Japan.” Addressing the second question, he maintains that the bomb “shortened the war and saved the lives of a relatively small but far from inconsequential number of Americans.” By situating his thesis within these parameters, S. Walker avoids having to take a position regarding the morality of the atomic bombings and instead focuses on rather narrow notions of “military necessity.” He presents a variegated list of reasons Truman dropped the bomb: “(1) the commitment to ending the war successfully at the earliest possible moment; (2) the need to justify the effort and expense of building the atomic bombs; (3) the hope of achieving diplomatic gains in the growing rivalry with the Soviet Union; (4) the lack of incentives not to use atomic weapons; and (5) hatred of the Japanese and a desire for vengeance.”
Walker’s differences with the traditionalists are quite clear: Walker suggests three rectifications to the popular narrative, a narrative the traditionalists largely accept: first, “there were other options available for ending the war… without the bomb and without an invasion”; second, due to Japan’s enervated capacity for war, Truman and his advisers did not regard invasion as inevitable; last, even if invasion was necessary to end the war, military planners “projected the number of American lives lost at far fewer than the hundreds of thousands that Truman and his advisers claimed after the war.” Furthermore, Walker relies on the USSBS, a point of divergence between himself and both the traditionalists and Hasegawa, to conclude “the war would probably have ended before an American invasion of Kyushu became necessary.”  Walker essentially dismisses the entire traditionalist approach, with the caveat that Truman was indeed concerned with saving as many American lives as possible.
It is important to note that he is rather critical of the revisionist approach as well. First and foremost, Walker specifically outlines what Alperovitz disparages as an analysis asserting “that a combination of factors-political, military, racial, financial-produced the decision.” Alperovitz’s criticism of such an approach is that it “is easy to assemble fragments of evidence” that suggest such an analysis, but jumping from these “fragments to an explanatory conclusion about decision-making at the very top of the U.S. government is suspect.” Thus, Walker’s “five fundamental considerations” are a significant departure from Alperovitz. More significantly, Walker actually considers the entire atomic diplomacy thesis as a sideshow. For instance, he maintains that “Truman did not drop the bomb primarily to intimidate the Soviets.” It was at best an ancillary consideration, a “bonus.”
Thus, the “consensus” historians, largely agree that potential alternatives existed, that invasion may not have been necessary, and that the atomic bombs were probably not responsible for saving hundreds of thousands of lives. In other words, they were not a military necessity. At the same time, the atomic bombs were not deployed primarily as diplomatic mechanisms. Even if they eventually came to fulfill this role, it was either the unintentional result of “momentum” or a tertiary variable barely perceptible vis-à-vis other considerations.
Conclusion: The Myth, the Cult, Nuclearism, and Nuclear Consciousness
In the post-war era, the debate and discussion over the bomb has been of tremendous importance. Both the traditionalist and revisionist camps have plotted the trajectory of the discourse surrounding Hiroshima and Nagasaki in different ways. Gar Alperovitz has suggested that officials promulgated propaganda in a top-down manner in order to manufacture an “American myth” surrounding the use of the atomic bombs. Robert J. Lifton’s preface to Martin Sherwin’s A World Destroyed laments the emergence of “nuclearism,” the ideology that the atomic bomb is a “deity” capable of both “destroying the world” and “capable of ruling and protecting the world, even of keeping the world going.” In contrast, Robert Newman denounces Alperovitz and other revisionists as “Hiroshima cultists,” “Truman bashers,” and a host of other pejoratives for creating a “cult” that worships at the altar of Hiroshima. Lastly, Paul Boyer, in his book By the Bomb’s Early Light: American Thought and Culture at the Dawn of the Atomic Age (1994), suggests that a sort of “nuclear consciousness” has infused itself in the perceptions and ideology of Americans in the post-war era. In fact, “nuclear reality” so deeply pervades our “consciousness that it is hard to imagine what existence would have been like without it.”  In these various ways authors have interpreted the post-war world after the atomic bomb.
In the second part of his book, Alperovitz explores the creation of the mythology surrounding the ostensibly “inevitable” use of the bomb. He maintains that three decisions, including the rejection to provide enough time for Japan to surrender, the choice to not offer the Japanese emperor assurances, and the explicit decision not to test a Russian entry into the war, “set the terms of reference for the bomb’s subsequent seemingly ‘inevitable’ use… [and] so tightly framed the remaining issues as to make it all but impossible thereafter to oppose the bombings.”  This “framing of the bomb,” alongside the top-down campaign of disinformation immediately after the war, were key factors that facilitated the permeation of American consciousness with the “inevitability” narrative.
Stimson, Truman, Byrnes, and Groves were key figures in this top-down propaganda campaign. Despite what Alperovitz argues was an ancillary role in the actual decision to drop the bomb, Stimson did play a vital role in propagating the official discourse, citing Stimson’s 1947 Harper’s article which was presented as “a mere recital of the facts.” Stimson posited a rigid dichotomy later picked up by traditionalist historians: either a costly invasion or use of the bomb was required to end the war. As Alperovitz explains, the article was an “extraordinary success,” with the New York Times, the Washington Post, Reader’s Digest, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, and an indeterminate number of other media outlets “decidedly uncritical and, indeed, often effusive in praise.” Truman’s argument that “the dropping of the bombs stopped the war” and “saved millions of lives” was the main line of thought he propagated continuously after the war. He maintains that the “over a million” figure” became the essential source for a myth which has been repeated with only occasional challenge for much of the last half century” despite modern scholarship demonstrating “the estimate to be without any serious foundation in the documents of that period.”  Byrnes systematically distorted and revised the past by shrouding himself in secrecy and meticulously managing his personal writings. Groves’ role as “an expert public relations artist and news ‘spin’ master” also comes to light when he devised a strategy whereby U.S. officials would “saturate” the “huge market hungry for information with officially approved material from the only authoritative source available.” In Japan itself a Civil Censorship Division of the Occupation had some 8,700 staffers engaged in examining thousands of newspapers, magazines, textbooks, motion pictures, and even private mail to ensure they did not stray too far from the official discourse. The most pernicious form of censorship was also the most ubiquitous; namely, government classification. Thus, as Alperovitz argues, “the ‘normal’ functioning of government… is even more effective than the occasional excesses which make the headlines.” In these ways the historical narrative from beginning to end was “managed” by U.S. officials.
Part of Martin Sherwin’s work is intended to combat the legacy of nuclearism. In a world where humans have “infused [the atomic bomb] with a constellation of awe and mystery. That constellation has included tendencies to embrace the bomb, to become fiercely dependent upon it, indeed, to render it something close to a deity.” The “willful embrace of the cruelest weapon ever created is the essence” of nuclearism. Suggesting a line of continuity with Paul Boyer, A World Destroyed suggests that an “idealistic aura of peacemaking was inseparable from the bomb’s lure of ultimate technology and ultimate power-all of which became part of the transcendent technology of nuclearism.” Hence, “the bizarre emphasis on the bomb’s ostensible function of ‘saving lives’ rather than destroying them, of rendering the world peaceful rather than bringing to it a specter of annihilation.”  This “bizarre emphasis” has been the plaything of traditionalist scholars for decades.
In sharp contrast with Alperovitz and Sherwin, Robert P. Newman’s thesis in Truman and the Hiroshima Cult is the paradigmatic post-revisionist account of the atomic bomb and its aftermath. In it he argues that a “cult,” with attendant cultists, has arisen around Truman and the Hiroshima decision. These “Hiroshima cultists” argue, in a variety of forms, that Japan was on the verge of surrender, that the “unconditional surrender” formula unnecessarily prolonged the war, and that Truman’s decision to drop the bomb was driven either by racism towards the Japanese or diplomatic concerns vis-à-vis the Soviets, or some combination thereof. Newman vehemently rejects what he refers to as the “Japanese-as-victim cult,” suggesting that any and all of the above suggestions are fundamentally incorrect. Newman proclaims that neither “Hiroshima cultists nor professional moralists had even considered the possibility that Hiroshima and Nagasaki were legitimate retribution for the millions of deaths caused by Japan’s fourteen-year rampage through China and the Pacific.”
Newman traces the development and growth of what he maliciously and interchangeably refers to as the “Japan-as-Victim myth” or “Hiroshima cult.” He begins by explaining how in the immediate aftermath of the war “the whole world viewed Japan as villainous.”  After 1948, however, things began to change, in both Japan and the United States. In 1949 John Hersey’s Hiroshima was published, which Newman credits with having the opposite but equally powerful impact that Anne Frank’s diary had on Germany. Where Anne Frank’s diary forced Germany to come to terms with its atrocities, Hiroshima shielded Japan from having to do so, and helped begin the “Japan-as-Victim” myth. Furthermore, in 1951 P. M. S. Blackett published Fear, War, and the Bomb, which argued that the bomb was not the last act of the Second World War but the first act of the Cold War. Finally, in 1954 when the U.S. tested the new H-bomb and the crew of a tuna trawler were affected by radioactive fallout, the “five most important Japanese newspapers took a common position: this was the third atomic bombing.” 
Despite all this, however, in 1964 a public opinion poll suggested that 49 percent of the Japanese public viewed the United States as their “favorite foreign country.” By 1973, after the U.S. atrocities in Vietnam and use of Japan to accomplish them, this “popularity” had dropped to 18 percent.  By the late sixties people were questioning earlier U.S. military endeavors, notably the dropping of the atomic bombs, as a reflection of the changing political tide and anti-Vietnam war sentiment. By 1989, the “majority opinion even among Japanese scholars” was accepting of both the Blackett thesis and racism as primary factors in the dropping of the atomic bomb. In the United States, the gradual buildup of anti-nuclear activism, starting with The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists in the late 1940s to the “Scientists’ Declaration on Nuclear Power” in 1975, had a major impact on retroactive views of the bombings. Thus, “accurate charges” of postwar “overkill… seemed to legitimate chargers of overkill levied at the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs.” Furthermore, many “who became disillusioned with the American terror bombing in Vietnam became converts to the Hiroshima guilt trip.” Newman also cites Ian Buruma’s The Wages of Guilt, which explores the myriad of factors for why a “Japan-as-Victim” cult developed but no comparably “cult” developed around Germany. The key factor as Newman sees it, however, was Vietnam. Without it, “the Japanese-as-victims cult in the United States would still be puny.” Newman’s work is a vicious attack on the legacy of revisionists like Gar Alperovitz and Martin Sherwin.
Paul Boyer’s study, By the Bomb’s Early Light: American Thought and Culture at the Dawn of the Atomic Age, addresses the “unsettling new cultural factor” of the atomic bomb that had been introduced in immediate post-war period from 1945 to 1950.  His contention is that the bomb “had transformed not only military strategy and international relations, but the fundamental ground of culture and consciousness” in the United States. These five formative years shaped how Americans first “confronted the bomb, struggled against it, and absorbed it into the fabric of the culture.”  In short, Boyer maintains that the 1945 to 1946 period was a time of “obsessive post-Hiroshima awareness of the horror of the atomic bomb,” while in the period from 1947 to 1950 and after there was a “diminished cultural attention and uneasy acquiescence” as the “dread destroyer of 1945 had become the shield of the Republic by 1950.” In essence, Sherwin’s “transcendent technology of nuclearism” permeated what Boyer calls America’s “nuclear consciousness.” This “nuclear consciousness” was infused into the very core of American ideology in the post-war era and so deeply pervades American “consciousness that it is hard to imagine what existence would have been like without it.” Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Boyer argues, “stand as signposts marking both a gash in the living flesh of our historical consciousness and a turning point in our ethical history.” 
From 1945 to 1946 an “intense discourse” had surrounded the atomic bomb, where after 1947 this “diminished to scattered murmurs and faint echoes” and by 1950 “America’s nuclear culture… would appear as a gray and largely deserted landscape.” Around this time the Atomic Energy Commission began a full throttle propaganda campaign to associate atomic energy with health, happiness, and prosperity. This campaign drew in scientists, educators, radio personalities, health workers, and others, directly reaching some four million Americans and indirectly affecting many more. A “policy of deep secrecy about atomic-bomb research and stockpiling,” alongside the “pervasive official practice… of playing down the bomb’s dangers” continued to condition the American public. In this context, and with the ensuing Cold War schism that dominated international relations, the “civil defense” paradigm displaced the “international control” slogan dominant during 1945-6. This multifaceted propaganda campaign was so successful that by 1950 Americans had overwhelmingly, if not unanimously, embraced the atomic bomb. The mid-1950s saw a resurgence of debate over the atomic bomb and then a re-decline after 1963. He argues that the illusion of diminished risk, the loss of immediacy, the promise of a world transformed by atomic energy, the complexity and comfort of deterrence theory, and the importance of the Vietnam War led to the decline of atomic prominence. Interestingly, whereas Newman positions the Vietnam War as the central feature in establishing the “Hiroshima cult,” Boyer contends that the Vietnam War actually lessened discussion and debate over the atomic bomb.
Although Boyer aligns neatly with revisionist historians, he does refocus the chronological lens. Where other historians have drawn a line of continuity between the development of the bomb and its use, or between the Roosevelt and Truman administrations, Boyer furthers that line of continuity by exploring the state’s role in managing post-Hiroshima public discourse. In this way Boyer’s work partially overlaps and agrees with but significantly transcends Alperovitz’ “architecture of an American myth.” By focusing on the state’s institution of a broad, far-reaching propaganda campaign that helped shape popular opinion, Boyer repositions the role of the state not just as user of the atomic bomb, but also as manager of the dominant discourse after its use. In this way, Boyer provides a unique historiographical contribution by arguing that atomic policies “transformed not only military strategy and international relations, but the fundamental ground of culture and consciousness” in the United States.
Thus, not only is the discourse surrounding the actual use of the atomic bomb split into competing camps, the post-war discourse itself is a topic of debate. In this regard, Paul Boyer’s work is the most thorough, sophisticated, and systematic cultural analysis of the post-war discourse. For those of us interested in challenging not only the excesses of war, but the inter-imperial rivalries that ultimately lead to the use of the bomb, understanding the nuances of the historiographical debate is vital. More importantly, in the wake of the 1995 Smithsonian controversy and the ever-expanding list of countries with access to nuclear armaments, those of us on the left must continue to wage war on the post-war discourse justifying and rationalizing the atomic bomb.
Alperovitz, Gar. The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb and the Architecture of an American Myth. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1995.
Boyer, Paul. By the Bomb’s Early Light: American Thought and Culture at the Dawn of the Atomic Age. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1994.
Frank, Richard B. Downfall: The End of the Imperial Japanese Empire. New York: Penguin Books, 1999.
Hasegawa, Tsuyoshi. Racing the Enemy: Stalin, Truman, and the Surrender of Japan. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2005.
Maddox, Robert James. Weapons for Victory: The Hiroshima Decision. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2004.
Malloy, Sean L. Atomic Tragedy: Henry L. Stimson and the Decision to Use the Bomb Against Japan. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2008.
Miscamble, Wilson D. The Most Controversial Decision: Truman, the Atomic Bombs, and the Defeat of Japan. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011.
Newman, Robert P. Truman and the Hiroshima Cult. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 1995.
Walker, J. Samuel. Prompt and Utter Destruction: Truman and the Use of the Atomic Bombs Against Japan. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2004.
Walker, Paul D. Truman’s Dilemma: Invasion or the Bomb. Gretna: Pelican Publishing Company, 2003.
Stimson, Henry L. “The Decisions to Use the Atomic Bomb.” Harper’s Magazine (1947).
Sherwin, Martin J. A World Destroyed: Hiroshima and Its Legacies. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2003.
Takaki, Ronald. Hiroshima: Why America Dropped the Atomic Bomb. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1995.
Wainstock, Dennis. The Decision to Drop the Atomic Bomb. New York: Enigma Books, 2011.
 I borrow the term “consensus” from J. Samuel Walker.
 Tsuyoshi Hasegawa utilizes “orthodox” to describe this position.
 Henry L. Stimson, “The Decisions to Use the Atomic Bomb,” Harper’s Magazine (1947). See full article: http://classrooms.tacoma.k12.wa.us/stadium/mberggren-2/us-history/download/Stimson%2B-%2BHarper%2BFeb%2B1947%2B-%2BDecision%2Bto%2BUse%2Bthe%2BAtomic%2BBomb.pdf?id=230795
 J. Samuel Walker, Prompt and Utter Destruction: Truman and the Use of the Atomic Bombs Against Japan (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2004), 105.
 Originally published in 1995.
 A reiteration and strengthening of his 1965 work Atomic Diplomacy.
 Originally published in 1973.
 Truman, Stimson, Byrnes, Stalin, Hirohito, and the Big Six in Japan are examples where disagreement is most pronounced.
 Gar Alperovitz, The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb and the Architecture of an American Myth (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1995), 19.
 Alperovitz, The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb, 225.
 Martin J. Sherwin, A World Destroyed: Hiroshima and Its Legacies (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2003), 6.
 Sherwin, A World Destroyed, 7.
 This argument maintained that the US should share atomic technology with the Soviet Union in exchange for political cooperation.
 This position stated that the US should maintain a monopoly over atomic technology as long as possible and advance its diplomatic aims through harsh bargaining from its position of atomic power.
 Tsuyoshi Hasegawa, Racing the Enemy: Stalin, Truman, and the Surrender of Japan (Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2005), 140.
 Hasegawa, Racing the Enemy, 154.
 Ibid., 135.
 Ibid., 139.
 Alperovitz, 19.
 Robert James Maddox, Weapons for Victory: The Hiroshima Decision (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2004), xv.
 Maddox, Weapons for Victory, 146.
 Ibid., 113.
 Richard B. Frank, Downfall: The End of the Imperial Japanese Empire (New York: Penguin Books, 1999), 104.
 This is Newman’s term for revisionist historians.
 The USSBS maintained that in all likelihood Japan would surrender prior to November 1, 1945 without the atomic bombing or the entrance of the Soviet Union into the war. It further states that had Japan not surrendered by November 1, it would definitely have surrendered prior to the end of 1945.
 Robert P. Newman, Truman and the Hiroshima Cult (East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 1995), 36.
 Newman, Truman and the Hiroshima Cult, 47.
 This is one of Newman’s other terms for revisionists.
 Ibid., 49.
 Wilson D Miscamble, The Most Controversial Decision: Truman, the Atomic Bombs, and the Defeat of Japan (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011), 91.
 Frank, 95.
 Ibid., 96.
 Ibid., 197.
 Paul D. Walker, Truman’s Dilemma: Invasion or the Bomb (Gretna: Pelican Publishing Company, 2003), 171.
 Miscamble, 115. Original emphasis.
 Maddox, 153.
 Hasegawa, 5.
 Maddox, 131.
 Frank, 348.
 Miscamble, 89.
 Ibid., 91.
 Sakomizu was chief secretary to the cabinet of Japan during World War II.
 Hasegawa, 250.
 Miscamble, 3.
 Ibid., 44.
 Ibid., 113.
 Ibid., 119.
 Ibid., 124.
 Newman, xiii. Emphasis added.
 Ibid., 120.
 Ibid., 130.
 Ibid., 138. Emphasis original.
 Paul Walker, 15.
 Ibid., 17.
 Ibid., 18-19.
 Ibid., 27.
 Ibid., 43-44.
 Miscamble, 120-1.
 Maddox, xv.
 Alperovitz, 656.
 Ibid., 657.
 Sherwin, 6.
 Ibid., 7.
 Ibid., 8.
 Alperovitz, 655.
 Ronald Takaki, Hiroshima: Why America Dropped the Atomic Bomb (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1995), 8.
 Takaki, Hiroshima, 100.
 Ibid., 94.
 Hasegawa, 2.
 Hasegawa, 300.
 Alperovitz, 4
 Hasegawa, 295.
 Ibid., 296.
 Alperovitz, 85.
 Hasegawa., 129.
 Ibid., 188
 Ibid., 275
 Samuel Walker cites Barton Bernstein as one of the pioneering “consensus” historians of Hiroshima.
 Dennis Wainstock, The Decision to Drop the Atomic Bomb (New York: Enigma Books, 2011), 178.
 Wainstock, The Decision to Drop the Atomic Bomb, 178.
 Ibid., 178.
 Maddox, 8.
 Newman, 57.
 Ibid., 71.
 Ibid., 73.
 Ibid., 77.
 Wainstock, 171
 Hasegawa, 290
 Ibid., 291
 Sean L. Malloy, Atomic Tragedy: Henry L. Stimson and the Decision to Use the Bomb Against Japan (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2008), 7.
 Malloy, Atomic Tragedy, 8.
 Ibid., 81.
 Ibid., 11.
 Ibid., 67.
 Ibid., 70.
 Ibid., 9.
 Ibid., 129. Here he is referring to retention of the emperor (modifying unconditional surrender) and the public threat of Soviet entry into the war.
 Malloy, 129
 Samuel Walker, 6.
 Ibid., 109.
 Ibid., 109.
 Ibid., 92.
 Ibid., 5-6.
 Ibid., 89.
 Alperovitz, 656.
 Walker, 95.
 Sherwin, xi.
 Paul Boyer, By the Bomb’s Early Light: American Thought and Culture at the Dawn of the Atomic Age (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1994), xix.
 Boyer, By the Bomb’s Early Light, xx.
 Alperovitz, 631.
 Ibid., 455.
 Ibid., 466.
 Ibid., 598.
 Ibid., 610.
 Ibid., 613.
 Sherwin, xi.
 Ibid., xi.
 Ibid., xii.
 Ibid., xi.
 Newman, xiii.
 Ibid., 153.
 Ibid., 161.
 Ibid., 164.
 Ibid., 177.
 Ibid., 183.
 Ibid., 184.
 Boyer, xxi.
 Ibid., xxi.
 Ibid., xx.
 Ibid., 352 and 349.
 Boyer, xx
 Ibid., 182.
 Ibid., 291.
 Ibid., 303.
Fukushima’s missing melted cores and radioactive gushers continue to fester in secret.
Japan’s harsh dictatorial censorship has been matched by a global corporate media blackout aimed—successfully—at keeping Fukushima out of the public eye.
But that doesn’t keep the actual radiation out of our ecosystem, our markets … or our bodies.
Speculation on the ultimate impact ranges from the utterly harmless to the intensely apocalyptic.
But the basic reality is simple: for seven decades, government Bomb factories and privately-owned reactors have spewed massive quantities of unmonitored radiation into the biosphere.
The impacts of these emissions on human and ecological health are unknown primarily because the nuclear industry has resolutely refused to study them.
Indeed, the official presumption has always been that showing proof of damage from nuclear Bomb tests and commercial reactors falls to the victims, not the perpetrators.
And that in any case, the industry will be held virtually harmless.
This “see no evil, pay no damages” mindset dates from the Bombing of Hiroshima to Fukushima to the disaster coming next … which could be happening as you read this.
Here are 50 preliminary reasons why this radioactive legacy demands we prepare for the worst for our oceans, our planet, our economy … ourselves.
1. At Hiroshima and Nagasaki (1945), the U.S. military initially denied that there was any radioactive fallout, or that it could do any damage. Despite an absence of meaningful data, the victims (including a group of U.S. prisoners of war) and their supporters were officially “discredited” and scorned.
2. Likewise, when Nobel-winners Linus Pauling and Andre Sakharov correctly warned of a massive global death toll from atmospheric Bomb testing, they were dismissed with official contempt … until they won in the court of public opinion.
3. During and after the Bomb Tests (1946-63), downwinders in the South Pacific and American west, along with thousands of U.S. “atomic vets,” were told their radiation-induced health problems were imaginary … until they proved utterly irrefutable.
4. When British Dr. Alice Stewart proved (1956) that even tiny x-ray doses to pregnant mothers could double childhood leukemia rates, she was assaulted with 30 years of heavily funded abuse from the nuclear and medical establishments.
5. But Stewart’s findings proved tragically accurate, and helped set in stone the medical health physics consensus that there is no “safe dose” of radiation … and that pregnant women should not be x-rayed, or exposed to equivalent radiation.
6. More than 400 commercial power reactors have been injected into our ecosphere with no meaningful data to measure their potential health and environmental impacts, and no systematic global data base has been established or maintained.
7. “Acceptable dose” standards for commercial reactors were conjured from faulty A-Bomb studies begun five years after Hiroshima, and at Fukushima and elsewhere have been continually made more lax to save the industry money.
8. Bomb/reactor fallout delivers alpha and beta particle emitters that enter the body and do long-term damage, but which industry backers often wrongly equate with less lethal external gamma/x-ray doses from flying in airplanes or living in Denver.
9. By refusing to compile long-term emission assessments, the industry systematically hides health impacts at Three Mile Island (TMI), Chernobyl, Fukushima, etc., forcing victims to rely on isolated independent studies which it automatically deems “discredited.”
10. Human health damage has been amply suffered in radium watch dial painting, Bomb production, uranium mining/milling/enrichment, waste management and other radioactive work, despite decades of relentless industry denial.
11. When Dr. Ernest Sternglass, who had worked with Albert Einstein, warned that reactor emissions were harming people, thousands of copies of his Low-Level Radiation (1971)mysteriously disappeared from their primary warehouse.
12. When the Atomic Energy Commission’s (AEC) Chief Medical Officer, Dr. John Gofman, urged that reactor dose levels be lowered by 90 percent, he was forced out of the AEC and publicly attacked, despite his status a founder of the industry.
13. A member of the Manhattan Project, and a medical doctor responsible for pioneer research into LDL cholesterol, Gofman later called the reactor industry an instrument of “premeditated mass murder.”
14. Stack monitors and other monitoring devices failed at Three Mile Island (1979) making it impossible to know how much radiation escaped, where it went or who it impacted and how.
15. But some 2,400 TMI downwind victims and their families were denied a class action jury trial by a federal judge who said “not enough radiation” was released to harm them, though she could not say how much that was or where it went.
16. During TMI’s meltdown, industry advertising equated the fallout with a single chest x-ray to everyone downwind, ignoring the fact that such doses could double leukemia rates among children born to involuntarily irradiated mothers.
17. Widespread death and damage downwind from TMI have been confirmed by Dr. Stephen Wing, Jane Lee and Mary Osbourne, Sister Rosalie Bertell, Dr. Sternglass, Jay Gould, Joe Mangano and others, along with hundreds of anecdotal reports.
18. Radioactive harm to farm and wild animals downwind from TMI has been confirmed by the Baltimore News-American and Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture.
19. TMI’s owner quietly paid out at least $15 million in damages in exchange for gag orders from the affected families, including at least one case involving a child born with Down’s Syndrome.
20. Chernobyl’s explosion became public knowledge only when massive emissions came down on a Swedish reactor hundreds of miles away, meaning that—as at TMI and Fukushima—no one knows precisely how much escaped or where it went.
21. Fukushima’s on-going fallout is already far in excess of that from Chernobyl, which was far in excess of that from Three Mile Island.
22. Soon after Chernobyl blew up (1986), Dr. Gofman predicted its fallout would kill at least 400,000 people worldwide.
23. Three Russian scientists who compiled more than 5,000 studies concluded in 2005 that Chernobyl had already killed nearly a million people worldwide.
24. Children born in downwind Ukraine and Belarus still suffer a massive toll of mutation and illness, as confirmed by a wide range of governmental, scientific and humanitarian organizations.
25. Key low-ball Chernobyl death estimates come from the World Health Organization, whose numbers are overseen by International Atomic Energy Agency, a United Nations organization chartered to promote the nuclear industry.
26. After 28 years, the reactor industry has still not succeeded in installing a final sarcophagus over the exploded Chernobyl Unit 4, though billions of dollars have been invested.
27. When Fukushima Units 1-4 began to explode, President Obama assured us all the fallout would not come here, and would harm no one, despite having no evidence for either assertion.
28. Since President Obama did that, the U.S. has established no integrated system to monitor Fukushima’s fallout, nor an epidemiological data base to track its health impacts … but it did stop checking radiation levels in Pacific seafood.
29. Early reports of thyroid abnormalities among children downwind from Fukushima, and in North America are denied by industry backers who again say “not enough radiation” was emitted though they don’t know how much that might be.
30. Devastating health impacts reported by sailors stationed aboard the USS Ronald Reagan near Fukushima are being denied by the industry and Navy, who say radiation doses were too small to do harm, but have no idea what they were.
31. While in a snowstorm offshore as Fukushima melted, sailors reported a warm cloud passing over the Reagan that brought a “metallic taste” like that described by TMI downwinders and the airmen who dropped the Bomb on Hiroshima.
32. Though it denies the sailors on the Reagan were exposed to enough Fukushima radiation to harm them, Japan (like South Korea and Guam) denied the ship port access because it was too radioactive (it’s now docked in San Diego).
33. The Reagan sailors are barred from suing the Navy, but have filed a class action against Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco), which has joined the owners at TMI, the Bomb factories, uranium mines, etc., in denying all responsibility.
34. A U.S. military “lessons learned” report from Fukushima’s Operation Tomodachi clean-up campaign notes that “decontamination of aircraft and personnel without alarming the general population created new challenges.”
35. The report questioned the clean-up because “a true decontamination operations standard for ‘clearance’ was not set,” thereby risking “the potential spread of radiological contamination to military personnel and the local populace.”
36. Nonetheless, it reported that during the clean-up, “the use of duct tape and baby wipes was effective in the removal of radioactive particles.”
37. In league with organized crime, Tepco is pursuing its own clean-up activities by recruiting impoverished homeless and elderly citizens for “hot” on-site labor, with the quality of their work and the nature of their exposures now a state secret.
38. At least 300 tons of radioactive water continue to pour into the ocean at Fukushima every day, according to official estimates made prior to such data having been made a state secret.
39. To the extent they can be known, the quantities and make-up of radiation pouring out of Fukushima are also now a state secret, with independent measurement or public speculation punishable by up to ten years in prison.
40. Likewise, “There is no systematic testing in the U.S. of air, food and water for radiation,” according to University of California (Berkeley) nuclear engineering Professor Eric Norman.
41. Many radioactive isotopes tend to concentrate as they pour into the air and water, so deadly clumps of Fukushima’s radiation may migrate throughout the oceans for centuries to come before diffusing, which even then may not render it harmless.
42. Radiation’s real world impact becomes even harder to measure in an increasingly polluted biosphere, where interaction with existing toxins creates a synergy likely to exponentially accelerate the damage being done to all living things.
43. Reported devastation among starfish, sardines, salmon, sea lions, orcas and other ocean animals cannot be definitively denied without a credible data base of previous experimentation and monitoring, which does not exist and is not being established.
44. The fact that “tiny” doses of x-ray can harm human embryos portends that any unnatural introduction of lethal radioactive isotopes into the biosphere, however “diffuse,” can affect our intertwined global ecology in ways we don’t now understand.
45. The impact of allegedly “minuscule” doses spreading from Fukushima will, over time, affect the minuscule eggs of creatures ranging from sardines to starfish to sea lions, with their lethal impact enhanced by the other pollutants already in the sea.
46. Dose comparisons to bananas and other natural sources are absurd and misleading as the myriad isotopes from reactor fallout will impose very different biological impacts for centuries to come in a wide range of ecological settings.
47. No current dismissal of general human and ecological impacts—”apocalyptic” or otherwise—can account over time for the very long half-lives of radioactive isotopes Fukushima is now pouring into the biosphere.
48. As Fukushima’s impacts spread through the centuries, the one certainty is that no matter what evidence materializes, the nuclear industry will never admit to doing any damage, and will never be forced to pay for it (see upcoming sequel).
49. Hyman Rickover, father of the nuclear navy, warned that it is a form of suicide to raise radiation levels within Earth’s vital envelope, and that if he could, he would “sink” all the reactors he helped develop.
50. “Now when we go back to using nuclear power,” he said in 1982, “I think the human race is going to wreck itself, and it is important that we get control of this horrible force and try to eliminate it.”
As Fukushima deteriorates behind an iron curtain of secrecy and deceit, we desperately need to know what it’s doing to us and our planet.
It’s tempting to say the truth lies somewhere between the industry’s lies and the rising fear of a tangible apocalypse.
In fact, the answers lie beyond.
Defined by seven decades of deceit, denial and a see-no-evil dearth of meaningful scientific study, the glib corporate assurances that this latest reactor disaster won’t hurt us fade to absurdity.
Fukushima pours massive, unmeasured quantities of lethal radiation into our fragile ecosphere every day, and will do so for decades to come.
Five power reactors have now exploded on this planet and there are more than 400 others still operating.
What threatens us most is the inevitable next disaster … along with the one after that … and then the one after that …
Pre-wrapped in denial, protected by corporate privilege, they are the ultimate engines of global terror.
There is no way to say this truth nicely: Politicians lie. That includes Japanese, American, Egyptian, Israeli, and Palestinian politicians! Is there something more common sense than that? Yet, so many citizens around the world believe their own politicians or wistfully acknowledge lies but think it is part of the job needed to run things. They believe even when politicians contradict themselves blatantly. This phenomenon is rather remarkable. It is a dissonance and disconnect from reality that many seem oblivious to. It is very dangerous because it can lead to accepting rationales for going to war. These can be deadly wars that lead to millions of lives lost as happened in what was called World War 1 and WW2. Even when incredible and declassified evidence abound, politicians continue to lie and old mythologies refuse to die. Here are just a few of the countless lies told to us over the past few decades:
-Lies about the need to drop the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagazaki (not to end WWII but to start WWIII or the cold war)
-Lies about why Britain issued the Balfour declaration and France the Jules Cambon declaration in support of Zionism
-Lies about why Israel was created in Palestine
-Lies about why Henry Wallace was replaced by Harry Truman as a vice president in the Democratic convention
-Lies about why Truman supported the creation of Israel on top of Palestine
-Lies about the ethnic cleansing of 530 Palestinian villages and towns
-Lies about September 11, 2001
-Lies about the reasons for the war on Iraq
-Lies about safety of nuclear power plants
-Lies about violations of US citizen rights by their own government
-Lies about why US/Israel want to subdue Iran now
-Lies about the US role in propping-up dictatorships
-Lies about western governments and human rights
-Lies about Vietnam, Cambodia, and much more
With a little effort, any person could easily find 1,001 lies and the sometimes painful truth about them. With very minor effort, I compiled 65 lies/myths told to us about Zionism http://www.qumsiyeh.org/liesandtruths/ There are many more.
But even when they have nothing to do with going to war, lies can be very dangerous. I am not talking about naiveté or stupidity because that is not what the politicians have. Take for example the Palestinian authority “leadership” represented by Mr. Mahmoud Abbas. Is it naiveté that would make him go into fruitless negotiations for 20 years with Israeli politicians then suspend negotiations telling his people that we will not go back to negotiations until Israel stops colonial settlement building and then tell his people that he went back to negotiations anyway while Israel is building. This flip-flop is the typical politician: no principles and no honesty. Yet, again many continue to clap for him. I do not say vote for him since his term is expired a long time ago and no elections are going to happen.
Even when confronted with paper evidence of political lies, many people ignore the mounting evidence. In our case, there were the lies about support for right of return told to our people while Abu Mazen tells Israeli TV that 1948 areas are Israel and he has no right to go back there (maybe should be able to go “visit”). There were the lies about being good negotiators with Israel. Saeb Erekat even wrote two books about negotiations full of such lies. Those lies were clearly debunked by the leaking of the Palestine papers which show that even a middle school student could do a better job at these negotiations than this groveling charade that these Palestinian negotiators are going through. The fate of 12 million Palestinians and the legacy of 80,000 martyrs are left to lying politicians: Israeli, Palestinian and American.
But we cannot blame politicians for our ill societies. It is us the people who let them do what they do by not challenging them.
It is perceived wisdom throughout the Western world – particularly America – that the dropping of two nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki was “necessary” to end the war with Japan. Printed throughout textbooks in the post-war world, the understanding is that, had these targets not been struck, the war would have waged on indefinitely, with potentially untold American soldier and Japanese civilian deaths.
As the world commemorates the 68th anniversary of the attacks, however, it is important to take a step back and view the catastrophic event not through the prism of propaganda and mythologizing, but instead through the lens of historical scrutiny. For, as is often the case, the disparity between “Official History” and reality is characterized by lies and deceptions bolstered by patriotism and American exceptionalism.
We are told repeatedly that, without the use of weapons which current Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui refers to as the “ultimate inhumane weapon and an absolute evil”, Japan would never have surrendered. We are told that President Truman was troubled by the mounting Allied casualties, and that the Joint Chiefs had told him to expect 1,000,000 dead Americans in the pending attack on the Japanese home islands. Yet this figure is a complete fabrication, invented by Secretary of War Stimson. No such claim was made by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Truman himself, in different statements, asserted “thousands of lives would be saved,” and “a quarter of a million of the flower of our young manhood was worth a couple of Japanese cities,” and also “I thought 200,000 of our young men would be saved by making that decision.” None of these statements were based on any evidence.
The alleged indefatigability of the Japanese military and their unwillingness to surrender is also a proven myth. By the summer of 1945 their position was hopeless and numerous attempts to surrender had already been made. Brigadier Gen. Carter W. Clarke stated: “We brought them down to an abject surrender through the accelerated sinking of their merchant marine and hunger alone, and when we didn’t need to do it, and we knew we didn’t need to do it, and they knew that we knew we didn’t need to do it, we used them as an experiment for two atomic bombs.”
Truman knew weeks before the Potsdam Conference, which began in July, 1945, that the Japanese were making overtures to surrender, the only condition being the retention of the Emperor. But Truman was determined to test the new bombs. In the words of General Douglas McArthur: ”The war might have ended weeks earlier, he said, if the United States had agreed, as it later did anyway, to the retention of the institution of the emperor.” In the end, the US agreed to the terms of the Japanese surrender anyway – but not until they had tested their new weapons and caused the deaths of 100,000s of innocent civilians.
In reality, most of the military top brass were disgusted at the decision to bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki and understood completely that it served no military purpose whatsoever. Admiral William D. Leahy, the President’s Chief of Staff said, “The use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender.” This view was reiterated by Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, who said, “The Japanese had, in fact, already sued for peace… The atomic bomb played no decisive part, from a purely military standpoint, in the defeat of Japan.”
So what is the truth about the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Why, when intelligence agencies knew months in advance that contingency plans for a large-scale invasion were completely unnecessary and that Japan desperately sought peace, did they, as Admiral Leahy put it, adopt “an ethical standard common to the barbarians of the Dark Ages”?
There are two main reasons. Firstly, the Russians had entered the Japanese war and were making striking advances through Manchuria, decimating the already weakened Japanese army. Indeed, their role was pivotal – as Air Force General Claire Chennault stated: “Russia’s entry into the Japanese war was the decisive factor in speeding its end and would have been so even if no atomic bombs had been dropped.” The last thing the American leadership wanted was for Russia to receive equal spoils of war and emerge from the war as a superpower equal to the US.
In this sense, the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are more accurately perceived as the opening salvos of the Cold War, rather than the final shots fired in the Second World War – the Cold War was, after all, defined essentially as a balance of nuclear powers; realpolitik and the primacy of power where the arms race and military insanity took supremacy over diplomacy.
The other, far more sinister reason, was one of scientific curiosity. After making such a huge investment in the Manhattan Project (2 billion in 1940) and with three bombs completed, there was little to no desire to shelve the weapons. The fissionable material in the Hiroshima bomb was uranium, while the Nagasaki bomb was plutonium, and subsequently there was intense scientific curiosity as to the different effects these bombs would produce. As the US Army director of the project, General Leslie Groves pondered: “what would happen if an entire city was leveled by a single uranium bomb?” “What about a plutonium bomb?” For the science experiment to go ahead, surrender was not an option.
Perhaps Stanley Kubrick in his movie Dr. Strangelove, Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb expressed his understanding more than most of the mentality of those who pushed for the use of atomic weapons on the Japanese at Hiroshima and Nagasaki – it was a decision based on a kind of hell-bent fanatical militarism combined with the worst kind of scientific endeavor devoid of any sense of humanity. Small wonder that the history books and the propaganda machine went into overdrive in the following years, endlessly justifying the use of what President Eisenhower described as “that awful thing”.
Officials in the Japanese city of Hiroshima have updated the number of victims from the Second World War atomic bombing by the United States, saying it is 15,000 more than the previously recorded figure.
According to a new report released on Thursday, the total number of the explosion-affected people from the 1945 nuclear bombardment of the city has climbed up to hit 557,478 people, Xinhua reported.
The report also updated the actual number of “direct victims” of the atomic bombing – those who were within the city and its neighboring towns and villages – to 384,743. It also put the number of victims who have died so far at 277,996.
The report primarily focuses on demographic changes in recent decades and was compiled as part of an over 30-year investigative project by the Hiroshima City on the atomic bombing victims.
Kaoru Ohsugi, Director of the research division of the Atomic Bomb Survivors Relief Department at the Hiroshima City Office, said that since there are still different ways to interpret the numbers concerning the A-bomb victims and damage, the division decided to update the figures, collecting new information and checking the details using computers.
“Considering the remaining time the survivors have to live and the verification procedures we can use, this report may be the last edition the city officially issues,” he said.
In the only instances of the use of nuclear weapons against another nation in history, the United States bombed the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki within a space of three days, killing hundreds of thousands of people. The nuclear radiation continued to claim thousands of more lives over the following years.
The US has conducted a nuclear test in Nevada to examine the effectiveness of its atomic weapons stockpile amid the growing global urge for nuclear disarmament.
The US Energy Department announced that the Wednesday nuclear test was aimed at providing “crucial information to maintain the safety and effectiveness of the nation’s nuclear weapons.”
The subcritical experiment, known as Pollux, was conducted by the staff from the Nevada National Security Site, Los Alamos National Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratories.
Subcritical nuclear tests examine the behavior of plutonium when shocked by forces produced by chemical high explosives.
According to UN figures, the US, which is the only country that has ever used atomic bombs against human beings, has conducted 1,032 nuclear tests since 1945.
The Nevada experiment has drawn sharp criticism from the Japanese city of Hiroshima, as the first victim of atomic weapons.
“I wonder why [US] President [Barack] Obama, who said he would seek a nuclear-free world, carried out the test,” Hiroshima mayor Kazumi Matsui told reporters.
“I wish he would take into account the feelings of the people of Hiroshima when making policy decisions,” he added.
Hiroshima was devastated on August 6, 1945 after the US B-29 bomber Enola Gay dropped an atomic bomb on the city, killing an estimated 140,000 people instantly or gradually from radiation sickness and cancers. Three days later, another atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, killing more than 70,000.
The nuclear radiation emitted following the blasts continued to claim thousands of more lives over the past decades.
“It is depressing that the United States cannot understand how atomic bomb survivors feel, despite our repeated protests,” said Secretary General of the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Survivors Council Hirotami Yamada.
The Wednesday experiment “is proof that the United States could use nuclear weapons anytime. Such a country is not qualified to be a world leader,” he noted.
- Mayor, A-bomb survivors angry about U.S. subcritical nuclear test (english.kyodonews.jp)
Dock Billin | Multiply | August 8, 2011
It was just short of eleven in the morning of a mild late summer day. The streets of the city were teeming with people going to work, while children played in the parks and in the medical college, professors were lecturing to their students on medicine and surgery.
High over the city, above the layer of clouds in the sky, a silver aeroplane was flying along on four throbbing motors. The crew had already been in the air for many hours and was growing tense and weary. They had flown to another city, where they were to deliver their cargo, but that had been obscured by smog and cloud, so they had come to this, their secondary destination. Getting low on fuel and experiencing some engine trouble, they were looking for a break in the cloud cover so that they could see where to release their cargo, a gift for the two hundred thousand people below.
A sudden hole opened in the cloud cover, and the B-29 started its bombing run.
It was the ninth of August, 1945, and the city below was about to become a funeral pyre.
When the accounts are written of the atom bomb, one name, and one alone, stands out in the histories – Hiroshima. It’s as though the atomic age is symbolised by that city. Tagged on, sometimes, to the end of it, is another name – Nagasaki – as though it were no more than an afterthought, ignored by most people except as a footnote. But Nagasaki was a city in its own right, bombed separately from Hiroshima, and with its own personalised tragedy.
In order to understand the tragedy of Nagasaki, it’s necessary first to examine the decision to use the atom bomb and the reasoning behind the bombing of Hiroshima.
The prelude to the atom bombing:
I have written previously and in detail about why I consider the bombing of Hiroshima to have been an inexcusable war crime, not only in hindsight, but even given the information available at the time to the people involved. I’ll repeat a point I made earlier:
Japan was finished, and was all ready to sue for peace; the only condition it made was that the position of the Emperor should be protected. The Japanese government under Kantaro Suzuki that took office in April 1945 did so with the one single objective of ending the war. All this was known to the Western Allies, since the Japanese codes had long since been broken.
By May 1945, the Japanese were suing for peace through Switzerland and Moscow – peace on any terms, just so long as the position of the Emperor was protected.
These are the terms the Japanese offered as early as 20 January 1945, and repeated through the USSR in July[1,3]:
* 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 and internees.
* Surrender of designated war criminals.
These are the exact same terms that the Americans accepted at the official Japanese surrender in September 1945. The war could have been over as early as January 1945 – if the US government had wanted it so.
The justification for the bombing:
The rationale for the atom-bombing of Hiroshima (and Nagasaki) rests on these ideas:
First claim: that the atom bomb was necessary to end the war.
In reality[1,2,3], the Japanese were suing for peace long before the A Bombing. Also, the fact is that wars are fought by militaries, and in this case the actual military forces involved (who would have been in a position to decide if they needed the Bomb to end the war) were kept completely out of the picture. Even General Douglas MacArthur, the theatre commander in the Pacific, was told of the Bomb’s existence a mere five days before it was used on Hiroshima. And European theatre commander General Dwight Eisenhower (later US President) was strongly opposed to its use, and was to comment in an interview to Newsweek in 1963, “We didn’t have to hit them with that awful thing.”
In 1945 the Japanese were in desperate circumstances. Japan
… already had been defeated militarily by June 1945. Almost nothing was left of the once mighty Imperial Navy, and Japan’s air force had been all but totally destroyed. Against only token opposition, American war planes ranged at will over the country, and US bombers rained down devastation on her cities, steadily reducing them to rubble.
What was left of Japan’s factories and workshops struggled fitfully to turn out weapons and other goods from inadequate raw materials. (Oil supplies had not been available since April.) By July about a quarter of all the houses in Japan had been destroyed, and her transportation system was near collapse. Food had become so scarce that most Japanese were subsisting on a sub-starvation diet .
While it is true that for public consumption the Japanese government was calling on its people to resist to the end, as any adult knows, the public statements of governments are to be treated with circumspection. Starving Japanese civilians armed with bamboo spears would have had little impact on the kind of invasion fleet the Allies could have summoned by 1 November 1945, the projected date for the invasion, if any invasion had actually been required. But
(t)he United States Strategic Bombing Survey concluded 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.” 
It’s also true that the atom-bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were not the last major bombing raids on Japan during the Second World War. In a broadcast from Tokyo the day after the Nagasaki bombing, 10th August (and also two days after the USSR invaded Manchuria), the Japanese government announced its readiness to accept the joint American-British “unconditional surrender” declaration of Potsdam, “with the understanding that the said declaration does not compromise any demand which prejudices the prerogatives of His Majesty as a Sovereign Ruler.”
Yet, on the day and evening of the 14th August, while Japan was preparing for the announcement of the unconditional surrender, General Henry Harley “Hap” Arnold dispatched over a thousand planes to fire-bomb Tokyo. Not even one was lost, and the official Japanese surrender was announced before the last one landed back at its base. If the A-Bombing had actually ended the war, what was the necessity for this act, unless one wants to call it deliberate terrorism?
At the same time, there’s the fact that, as I said, the USSR entered the war on 8th August, as it was treaty bound to do three months after the end of the war in Europe. In many ways, it was this decision that forced the Japanese surrender, not the A-Bombing. They did not want the Communists to occupy parts of their homeland.
American leaders who were in a position to know the facts did not believe, either at the time or later, that the atomic bombings were needed to end the war…
Shortly after “V-J Day,” the end of the Pacific war, Brig. General Bonnie Fellers summed up in a memo for General MacArthur: “Neither the atomic bombing nor the entry of the Soviet Union into the war forced Japan’s unconditional surrender. She was defeated before either these events took place.”
Similarly, Admiral Leahy, Chief of Staff to presidents Roosevelt and Truman, later commented:
It is my opinion that the use of the barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan … The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender because of the effective sea blockade and the successful bombing with conventional weapons … My own feeling was that in being the first to use it, we had adopted an ethical standard common to the barbarians of the Dark Ages. I was not taught to make war in that fashion, and wars cannot be won by destroying women and children.
If the United States had been willing to wait, said Admiral Ernest King, US Chief of Naval Operations, “the effective naval blockade would, in the course of time, have starved the Japanese into submission through lack of oil, rice, medicines, and other essential materials.” 
Besides, unlike the standard version of the story, the Japanese leaders of the time weren’t particularly impressed by the A-Bomb. Nobody knew much about these weapons at the time, and the initial number of casualties was less than those inflicted during the fire-bombing of Tokyo on the night of 9th March 1945 when over a hundred thousand Japanese were burned alive and boiled to death in the city’s canals. It was just another enemy weapon, and the murder of a few hundreds of thousand civilians was passé by that stage of the war, when 67 Japanese cities had been destroyed by fire-bombing.
Therefore, it’s certain that the claim that the A-Bombing was necessary to end the war was false, and was known to be false even when the decision was being made.
Second claim : That the atom bomb was required to save a million American lives.
This claim rides piggyback on the first, and is predicated on an invasion and prolonged fighting for the Japanese home islands. However, as we’ve seen, no invasion would have been necessary, and the people in power were well aware that no invasion would have been necessary. Even so, the figure of a million American dead is widely inflated.
(T)he worst-case scenario for a full-scale invasion of the Japanese home islands was forty-six thousand American lives lost.
Even if it were true that a million American soldiers would have died in the invasion of the Japanese home islands, did that justify nuking over a quarter of a million civilians? How is that different from torturing and massacring the inhabitants of a city to break the will of their fighting men to resist? And in what way does that qualify as not terrorism, if we define “terrorism” as the use of applied fear to influence the actions of a target government or populace?
Third claim: That Hiroshima and Nagasaki were heavily-defended military bases and hence legitimate targets.
This is actually one of the more transparent myths of the entire episode. Hiroshima was chosen as a target of the atom-bombing because it had never been bombed; and it had never been bombed because it was not militarily significant (about 95% of the casualties in the city were civilian). In fact,
… almost all of the victims were civilians, and the United States Strategic Bombing Survey (issued in 1946) stated in its official report: “Hiroshima and Nagasaki were chosen as targets because of their concentration of activities and population.” 
As we shall see, Nagasaki was a third-hand choice for the bomb; it was meant to be used elsewhere, because Nagasaki had already been bombed five times before and wasn’t thought to be a prime target.
Fourth claim: The Japanese somehow “deserved” Hiroshima (and Nagasaki) because of the attack on Pearl Harbour.
This is part of the justification put out by Truman himself, 
“Having found the bomb we have used it. We have used it against those who attacked us without warning at Pearl Harbor (sic), against those who have starved and beaten and executed American prisoners of war, and against those who have abandoned all pretense (sic) of obeying international law of warfare.”
The simple fact is that the Japanese people were not, at the time, ruled by anything resembling a democracy. They had no part in the decisions that were taken in their name, and are no more to blame, collectively, than the people of the United States are collectively to blame for the invasion of Iraq – less so, indeed, because the US is (on the surface of it) a democracy.
The attack on Pearl Harbour, in any case, was far from the simple story of an unexpected and illegal attack on the US as is usually claimed. In reality, the attack had been made inevitable by a game of political brinkmanship and pushing Japan to the point where it had no option but to strike back. It was a pre-emptive strike… a strike the US celebrates to this day. The purpose of this article is not to get diverted into a discussion of the attack on Pearl Harbour; but it will note that while the official story is of a vicious and unprovoked attack, there are excellent reasons to believe that it was not.
But even if the attack on Pearl Harbour had been a vicious and unprovoked attack, it was a military attack on a military base, and any civilians killed were accidental casualties (“collateral damage” in the words of the same people who decry the attack while occupying Iraq and Afghanistan and bombing Pakistan and Libya). The attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were designed to kill civilians, and therefore were not a proportionate, legal or moral response to the attack on Pearl Harbour.
Therefore, none of these four justifications for the bombing stands up to examination.
Some words about the Atom Bomb:
This would probably be the right place to briefly discuss the atom bomb itself – as it was used in Hiroshima and then at Nagasaki. (You’ll see the point of this digression in a minute.)
With apologies to those to whom this is hardly news, there are two distinct types of nuclear bomb. Both depend on bringing together an unstable mass of radioactive metal, known as the critical mass, which then spontaneously undergoes change into a smaller mass of other materials with the missing mass converted into energy. This energy is gigantic compared to the amount of missing mass, because it follows Einstein’s famous equation E=mc2where E is the energy obtained from converting a mass m and c is the speed of light. Since the speed of light is 300,000 kilometres per second, the energy obtained by converting just one gram of material is huge indeed. That’s why nuclear bombs are so powerful; the Hiroshima bomb had a yield of 13.5 kilotons (the equivalent of 13,500 tons – not kilograms, tons – of TNT), and Nagasaki suffered 21 kilotons. And these were small bombs by today’s standards.
Now, there are two metals that can be used to construct an atom bomb. One is Uranium 235, and the other, Plutonium 239. In the case of Uranium 235, the technique used is relatively simple, and is called the gun type device. A “bullet” of the metal, weighing less than the critical mass, is fired by explosives into a sphere of the same metal, also weighing less than the critical mass, but the two together weigh more than the critical mass and “nuclear fission” occurs as the atoms split to release the above-mentioned energy. The gun-type device is simple and can be expected to work without testing, and this was the design of the (untested) bomb dropped over Hiroshima.
The plutonium bomb is a different matter. Because of certain inherent problems with the presence of Plutonium 240 as an impurity, the gun type device is unusable. Instead, the technique used is the implosion device, where explosives are used to compress a sphere of plutonium from all sides until it achieves a mass greater than the critical level, and explodes. This method happens to be both more efficient and safer than the gun-type device, and is used for most modern nuclear weapons.
The thing about the implosion device is that it could not be reliably expected to work without testing, because its utility was still entirely theoretical at the time of construction and because of the fact that a highly complex triggering device has to be used to compress the sphere evenly and quickly into a supercritical mass. Therefore, it required a test – and this was the device that was tested at Alamogordo in New Mexico on 16th July 1945, which was called the “Trinity” test and was the world’s first nuclear explosion.
While the uranium bomb (“Little Boy”) was used on Hiroshima, the far more complex and expensive plutonium bomb (“Fat Man”) was used on Nagasaki.
Which leads us to one possible reason why the bomb was used…
The possible real reasons for the use of the atom bomb:
- The political reason: By 1945, the alliance between the USSR and the Western Allies was fast breaking down. It was little more than a formality which would obviously end once the war was over. Before the Germans were even defeated, American pilots flying close to the Eastern front with secret equipment in their aircraft were ordered by their superiors to bail out over German territory in case of emergency rather than land on the Soviet side of the lines (vide John Toland, The Last Hundred Days). The Western Allies were more concerned about their ally, the USSR, laying hands on their equipment than their enemies, the Germans, capturing it.
While at Yalta in February 1945, Stalin agreed to enter the war against Japan three months after the end of the war in Europe, which would mean the USSR’s declaring war on Japan on 8th August (since the European war ended on 8th May). The Americans and British were well aware of this, and Truman himself had written to his wife that the Soviet Union’s entry into the war would hasten Japan’s downfall. Obviously, once the war ended, the two competing systems – communism and capitalism – would be scrambling for the prize of ruling the post-war world. The atom bombing was the first shot in the Cold War. 
Truman, in fact, postponed the July Potsdam conference with Stalin until he was certain that the Alamogordo test was successful, and his Secretary of State and advisor Byrnes’
… general viewpoint is consistent and clear. He saw the atomic bomb as a way to impress the Soviets. 
Also, as William Craig describes in The Fall Of Japan, by 25th August OSS (the organisation that is now the CIA) agents in China were openly threatening the Chinese Communists, still their official allies against the Japanese, with the use of the nuclear bomb unless they fell into line and stopped their “banditry”.
The political factor behind the bombing is therefore pretty clear.
- The revenge factor: Throughout the war, the Western nations had categorised the Japanese as something less than human, and Western propaganda had consistently portrayed them as monstrous rats or monkeys. The use of the atom bomb on them was a nice, satisfying way of exacting revenge, as Truman himself said (see above).
- Scientific curiosity: Just because scientists are scientists we can’t expect them to be necessarily ethical or moral. The scientists wanted to know which bomb was more powerful, and one important reason for the atom-bombing of Nagasaki was merely to see if the implosion device would cause more devastation than the Hiroshima bomb. The fact that the programme had cost two thousand million dollars (at the then value) was also a powerful incentive to use the bomb – to justify the money spent.
Hiroshima, in fact, was chosen as a target for two reasons: first, because it was a “virgin” city, never having been bombed, and therefore would provide an excellent test-bed for the Bomb; and also because of its topography (surrounded on three sides by hills) which would allow the blast to be focused back on the city and cause even greater destruction.
Could the Bomb have been used otherwise?
Let’s – for the sake of argument – assume that the atom bomb really ended the war. What were the alternatives to dropping the bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki?
Alternative No 1: Warning the Japanese through neutral nations of the existence of the bomb and the willingness to use it. Whether this would have been effective of not, it certainly wasn’t tried.
Alternative No 2: Making a “demonstration” – dropping the bomb over an isolated Japanese military base, over an unpopulated area, or over the sea within sight of the Japanese coast. This, too, was never tried, and never, apparently, contemplated.
The argument usually goes that the bomb actually had to be used for the Japanese to appreciate its true destructive power, and without that they wouldn’t have surrendered. The argument further goes that the use of only one bomb wouldn’t be effective, because the hardliners in the Japanese military and government wouldn’t believe that the US had more than one of the bombs.
Again, for the sake of argument, let’s assume that this line of thinking has merit – that the Japanese would have not surrendered unless the Bomb was actually used on one or more of their cities.
This raises some questions:
1. If the Hiroshima bomb was used on 6th August, why was the Nagasaki bomb used just three days later? It was an impossibly short time for the Japanese government to assimilate information about the bomb, given the utterly destroyed state of Japanese communications, and decide on surrender. Besides, it was only at Nagasaki (vide Craig, The Fall Of Japan) that a message was dropped (taped to an instrument package parachuted to study the explosion) to a Japanese nuclear scientist – a Professor Sagane – who had earlier studied in the US, informing him of the nature of the atom bomb. So, the Japanese were not even given the time to know of their danger and think of surrender – before both bombs had been used.
2. Let’s for the sake of argument assume that Hiroshima had to be destroyed to force a Japanese surrender, and a second bomb had to be dropped to make the point that the US had more than one bomb. If that is so, why wasn’t the second bomb used as a demonstration, and dropped somewhere the Japanese could see its effect for themselves, and not on civilians? What possible justification can there have been for destroying a city?
And this is why I consider Nagasaki to have been an even worse war crime than Hiroshima – because, following the arguments of the pro-bomb lobby to their logical conclusion, the bombing of the latter city comes across as even more wanton and pointless, even more of a war crime and a terrorist act.
While I am on the subject, as I’ve written elsewhere 
I view the atom-bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as a complete and despicable war crime. I view it as such because – like using Agent Orange in Vietnam or depleted uranium today everywhere from Kosovo to Libya – the effects extend to future generations, meaning people who are not only not guilty of any part in the conflict, but weren’t even born when it took place. No amount of self-justification can excuse that.
Secondly, I view nuclear weapons as the closest thing we have to an absolute evil, because it gives its possessors the choice to wipe out virtually all life on earth in defence of a political or economic ideology; a way of wiping out everything in some kind of universal Gotterdammerung. Just as you wouldn’t let a petulant child get its hands on a firearm, you wouldn’t want a nation – any nation – to have the means to blow everything away in a fit of temper. Don’t think it can’t happen – it very nearly has.
It is true (as I shall discuss in a moment) that the bombing of Nagasaki killed far fewer people than the bombing of Hiroshima even though the bomb was far more powerful; but that was more by accident than by intent, and surely in these situations intent is what matters. Is a man who kills a hundred people more of a criminal than one who kills merely fifty? And is the latter guiltier than one who has dispatched only five or so?
The targeting of Nagasaki:
Let’s say something here that a lot of people don’t know: Nagasaki was not a primary target for the Bomb. The list of potential Japanese targets had at first four names on it – Kyoto, the ancient Japanese capital; Kokura, Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Kyoto was scratched early on because of its cultural and religious significance to the Japanese people, and Niigata substituted. That city was subsequently scratched because it was considered too far to be reliably attacked, what with having to fly there carrying the immense weight of the atom bomb, and the target list came down to three – Hiroshima and Kokura, with Nagasaki (which had already been bombed five times and therefore wasn’t a “virgin” city like Hiroshima) as the alternate target.
When the B 29 bomber (Bockscar) carrying “Fat Man” took off from Tinian, it was supposed to bomb Kokura, but the target was covered by smog and cloud. The crew were under strict orders not to bomb by radar, but only after visually identifying the aiming point. Despite three passes over the target, they were unable to do so, and by this time the Japanese below had opened up with some anti-aircraft fire (the only occasion during the two atom bombings that any opposition at all was encountered. That a tiny number of unescorted and unarmed bombers – three at Hiroshima, two at Kokura/Nagasaki – could fly over Japanese cities in broad daylight unmolested is clear proof of the utterly parlous nature of Japanese defences at the time). The plane then flew to Nagasaki, which was covered by cloud and smog as well. By then, fuel was getting low, and there was just enough for one pass over the target. There was only one hole in the cloud which afforded some view of the city, and “Fat Man” was dropped through that hole, with a racetrack as the makeshift aiming point.
The bombing of Nagasaki:
As Fat Man fell through the air over Nagasaki, arming wires were extracted, barometric switches were closed, and electrical switches were triggered at a pre-set altitude of 500 metres. The detonators arranged around the plutonium core exploded, driving the metal ball on itself until it reached a supercritical mass. A moment later, with an intense bluish-white light, the bomb exploded over the city. People below simply vanished, vaporised in an instant. Further from the blast site, they were blinded, their skin burned away, their bodies blasted with radiation, and all of them died. Many who were not killed by the blast or radiation were crushed under falling buildings, and yet others roasted alive by the mass fires that followed. Those further from the blast and fires soon began to suffer the effects of radiation sickness: diarrhea, weakness and fever, agonising pain, their urinary flow stopping as the inner lining of their bladders came away. Most of them soon died. Those who survived lost their hair and teeth, followed by a lifetime of health problems, frequently involving cancer and passing on mutations to their children.
Everything happened as it had happened at Hiroshima, in fact; but, as I’ve mentioned, the casualty toll was
As the fireball from the explosion rose, it sucked up superheated air along with moisture, smoke and soot from the incinerated city, and condensed it all in a tower of cloud that spread out at the top – into the image of the mushroom cloud that is familiar to us all. And the moisture condensed and fell along with the soot and dirt as a black rain, just as it had done at Hiroshima.
The reason for the lower casualty toll is as follows: the implosion type plutonium device was far more powerful than the gun-type bomb used on Hiroshima. It was, however, dropped far off-centre (towards the north-west) and failed to hit the middle of the city as planned. Nagasaki is also, unlike Hiroshima, a hilly city broken up by stretches of water Large portions of the city were protected from blast by the hilly terrain, and the mass fires that started could not cross open stretches of water to ignite a firestorm as in Hiroshima. That is why “only” some 87000 died – as opposed to more than twice that number at Hiroshima. (It’s a different matter that an even higher proportion of them were civilians, including a number of Western prisoners of war whose presence was known to the US – but the bombing went ahead anyway.)
When you remember that the most notorious “terrorist” strike in history killed fewer than 3000 people, and that that strike became the reason for wars that have to date destroyed two nations and devastated several others, it brings the crimes of Hiroshima and Nagasaki even more into focus.
It’s worth noting that by 1947, Harry Truman had apparently begun feeling a need to whitewash his own part in the decision to use the bomb. He had the first film on Hiroshima censored extensively, falsifying history and reinventing his and every other major participant’s role in it. It’s difficult to see this effort as anything but an admission of guilt, yet it established the modern myth of how the Bomb had to be used, most reluctantly, to end the war. It wasn’t a very effective propaganda device, of course, but the people of the US were eager to believe that the bombing was not a crime – so they took the opportunity to believe it.
The modern government of Japan is hardly free of guilt either. It made no effort to help the hibakusha – the survivors of the atomic bombing – until the 1950s, and to this day said help is far from adequate. Besides, Japan till today operates on a US-written constitution and has a government that cannot exert full sovereignty over its own territory – no government which cannot ask an allegedly allied nation to remove its troops from its own territory can be said to be sovereign – and cannot be expected to annoy the Americans. Therefore, the whitewash tends to be bilateral.
Obviously, I believe that the atom bombing of the two cities was a war crime, and that the people who ordered the bombings were war criminals. However, were the people who actually carried out the bombings – the pilots and crew of the two planes, and the pilots and crew of the observation planes that accompanied them – war criminals?
Under normal circumstances, one would have said they weren’t. In a war that had crossed all limits of savagery, I’d have said that they were soldiers carrying out their orders. But there’s what happened afterward.
In 1995, the Smithsonian Institution wanted to hold an exhibition showing the effect of the atom-bombing of Hiroshima. One of the most strident opponents of the exhibition (which ultimately was aborted) was an old man who claimed it was a “damned big insult”. This old man was someone who had – in 1975 – flown a recreation of the attack of Hiroshima at an air show, complete with mushroom cloud, and claimed he had not intended it to be offensive. Yet, obviously, he found showing the effects of the bomb itself offensive to himself.
Who was he? His name was Paul Tibbets, and he was the man who had flown the B 29, Enola Gay, which had dropped the Hiroshima bomb. His bombardier, too, went to his grave declaring he would do it again if the opportunity arose.
Whether Tibbets was a war criminal or not, therefore, at least in retrospect, might be a matter of opinion. However, I’d like to point out one thing:
After returning from a mission where they had just barbecued over a hundred thousand human beings, the crew of the Enola Gay celebrated with a barbecue.
So what can be done? I believe that an apology is a good place to begin. It’s necessary because even though an apology won’t help the victims of the Bomb, it will acknowledge that bombing them was wrong; and only if one admits wrong will one begin to guard against the tendency to do it again. After the end of the Second World War, the USA has threatened the use of nuclear weapons many times – against Korea, China, Cuba and Vietnam, against Iraq, North Korea and now against Iran. If the only nation ever to use nuclear weapons and threaten their use apologised for doing so, it might guard against the tendency to use these weapons or threaten their use – and in the modern world, if one country can use them, another can; and once there’s a major exchange, no matter who is guilty of starting it, there can be no turning back from the road to utter global ruin.
Not that any apology will ever be forthcoming, of course, but there’s no harm dreaming.
- Hiroshima marks anniversary of atomic bombing (news.xinhuanet.com)
Disarmament Protests and Massacres
“How brave it is to believe that in today’s world, reasoned, nonviolent protest will register, will matter. But will it?… The threshold of horror has been ratcheted up so high that nothing short of genocide or the prospect of nuclear war merits mention. Peaceful resistance is treated with contempt. Terrorism’s the real thing.” …
— Arundhati Roy
Initial court appearances, known and unknown
James Holmes was in court Mon., July 30, in Aurora, Colorado, charged with 142 counts of murder, etc. The whole world knows of this initial hearing for the alleged murderer/terrorist because every detail of Holmes’ life is now regularly put at the top of TV and radio news shows and above the fold in every newspaper. Someone kills a lot of people and the media swarms.
Not so if your action was a peaceful attempt to prevent massacres.
On exactly the same day, the first court appearance took place in Knoxville, Tenn. for disarmament activists Michael Walli, 63, of Washington, DC, Megan Rice, 82, of New York City, and Greg Boertje-Obed, 57, of Duluth, Minn. (Greg is a married father of one and a former ROTC medical clerk trainee.)
You won’t have heard or read a word of these pacifists because their action was free of violence and mayhem. On the contrary, their protest was against nuclear madness and the continuing waste of hundreds of billions of dollars on nuclear warhead production, and it involved hoisting a banner and issuing an indictment against illegal U.S. weapons.
Early on July 28, the three walked into one of the country’s “most militarily secure” sites — the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tenn. — and conducted a bold protest against the government’s plans to spent $80 billion on upgrading the nuclear weapons production complex.
Unarmed activists walk around nuclear “security”: Facing 1 year in prison and $100,000 fine for protest
According to statements released by the three and phone calls from Blount County jail in Tenn. where they are being held, they entered Y-12 before dawn, passed through four fences and entered the maximum security “Use of deadly force authorized” area, where they hoisted banners, spray painted messages and poured their blood (drawn by a nurse) on the Highly Enriched (weapon-grade) Uranium Materials Facility.
Appearing before federal magistrate Bruce Guyton, the three face one charge of federal trespass which carries a max of one year in prison and/or a $100,000 fine. Felony charges may be pending.
The indictment of nuclear weapons production delivered by Rice, Walli and Boertje-Obed cites U.S. Constitutional and Humanitarian Treaty Law, as well as the Nuremberg Principles. It says in part, “The ongoing building and maintenance at Y-12 constitutes war crimes that can and should be investigated and prosecuted by judicial authorities. We are required by International Law to denounce and resist known crimes.”
The action, which they called “Transform Now Plowshares,” is one of a long tradition of Plowshares actions in the U.S. and around the world which challenge or interfere with war plans and weapons of mass destruction, and which often take inspiration from the Old Testament prophesy to “turn swords into plowshares and study war no more.
At Y-12, construction is under way to replace facilities for producing “enriched uranium” for H-bombs. It is budgeted to cost over $6.5 billion. Stealing these funds from hungry and impoverished people forces them to starve, hence the protesters’ use of blood to “name” Y12.
Anniversary of U.S. Massacres at Hiroshima & Nagasaki
You may have thought that the nuclear war budget was shrinking and that the President honestly meant something when he spoke of “a world without nuclear weapons,” but you’d be mistaken.
The President and Congress have funded new construction of a pair of projects at Y-12 — one of which was reached by the protesters — for producing uranium for new U.S. H-bombs.
One of the laws mentioned by the activists, the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty of 1968, obliges the U.S. to undertake complete nuclear disarmament. Y12 openly contravenes this law.
While the world notes the anniversary of the U.S. atomic bomb massacres at Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, Greg, Megan and Michael wait in jail to endure the wrath of an embarrassed nuclear weapons establishment.
Prosecutors who will advance the federal case against them may not want to call their government work “protection of the Bomb” — especially in the face of international law requiring its abolition — but that’s what it is.
Still, the media won’t criticize harsh treatment of the pacifists. While the press over-kills the multiple murder story in Colorado, our TV nation seems to agree with George Carlin: The United States isn’t warlike, it just likes war.
John LaForge is on the staff of Nukewatch, a nuclear watchdog and environmental justice group in Wisconsin.
- Transform Now Plowshares action at Y-12 nuclear weapons complex (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Peace activists close nuclear facility, cause historic security breach (wagingnonviolence.org)