The New Enola Gay Controversy: Historians Protest the Latest Smithsonian Exhibit





The following statement was initially prepared by Peter Kuznick, director of the Nuclear Studies Institute at American University. He made revisions based on comments by Gar Alperovitz, Uday Mohan, E.L. Doctorow, Frank von Hippel, Dan Ellsberg, Phil Wheaton, and John Dower.

Following is a statement released by the Committee for a National Discussion of Nuclear History and Current Policy.

A committee of scholars, veterans, clergy, activists, students, and other interested individuals is now forming to challenge the Smithsonian's plans to exhibit the Enola Gay solely as a "magnificent technological achievement." The planned exhibit is devoid not only of historical context and discussion of the ongoing controversy surrounding the bombings, but even of basic information regarding the number of casualties. We have formulated the following statement of principles, which we plan to circulate widely. The statement makes clear that we are not opposed to exhibiting the plane in a fair and responsible manner, but that we fear that such a celebratory exhibit both legitimizes what happened in 1945 and helps build support for the Bush administration's dangerous new nuclear policies. We, in fact, welcome and intend to initiate a national discussion of both the 1945 bombings and of current nuclear issues. But before we launch a public campaign and officially contact the Smithsonian, we seek endorsements of the statement from a small number of prominent individuals who can help the effort gain credibility and attract media attention. More active participation is, of course, welcome and desirable. Most immediately, though, please let us know if we can add your name to our list and how you would like to be identified.

Peter Kuznick
Professor of History and Director Nuclear Studies Institute, American University

Kevin Martin
Executive Director, Peace Action

Daniel Ellsberg
Author, Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers


Committee for a National Discussion of Nuclear History and Current Policy

Statement of Principles

Gen. John "Jack" Dailey, director of the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum, the most widely visited museum in the world, has announced plans to display the Enola Gay--the B-29 Superfortress that dropped the atomic bomb on the city of Hiroshima--as the centerpiece of the museum's new Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center at Washington Dulles International Airport. That August 6, 1945 attack, according to recent estimates, resulted in over 140,000 deaths. A second atomic bomb dropped three days later on the city of Nagasaki caused an estimated 70,000 deaths. And as many scientists warned in advance would happen, and as President Truman clearly understood, the incineration of Hiroshima and Nagasaki initiated a nuclear arms race that threatened to bring about the annihilation of the human species, a danger that persists today.

Recognizing the momentous implications of the onset of the nuclear age, in 1999 a national panel of distinguished journalists and scholars voted the U.S. atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki the most significant news event of the 20th century. Yet, in a statement reflecting extraordinary callousness toward the victims, indifference to the deep divisions among American citizens about the propriety of these actions, and disregard for the feelings of most of the world's peoples, museum director Dailey declared, "We are displaying it [the Enola Gay] in all of its glory as a magnificent technological achievement." The plane, in fact, differs little from other B-29s and gains its notoriety only from the deadly and history-altering nature of its mission.

Dailey's remarks are particularly shocking in light of the criticism of the bombing by General Dwight Eisenhower and the questions raised by so many other WWII military leaders, sentiments best reflected in the haunting comments of Admiral William Leahy, Truman's wartime chief of staff who chaired the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who poignantly observed, "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….in being the first to use it, we adopted an ethical standard common to the barbarians of the Dark Ages."

People throughout the world have already raised powerful objections to the exhibit. Hidankyo, the main survivors' organization in Japan, and Gensuikyo, the Japan Council Against A and H Bombs, have written to Dailey, insisting, "The display rationalizes the bombing and as such it is absolutely unforgiveable….Atomic bombs massacre civilians indiscriminately and are weapons that cannot be justified in humanitarian terms. Even now, many victims continue to suffer the after-effects." Nor can Americans acquiesce to an exhibit that implicitly celebrates the atomic bombings while avoiding all of the crucial questions. By its mishandling of these issues in 1995, the Smithsonian cast international doubt upon the integrity, decency, and fairmindedness of American institutions. We hope to avert a similar outcome this time. We have therefore formed an ad-hoc coalition of religious leaders, veterans, scientists, historians and other scholars, citizen activists, and students united by our conviction that such an exhibit must not go forward as planned.

We are not, however, opposed to exhibiting the Enola Gay. Much to the contrary, we welcome any exhibition that will spur an honest and balanced discussion of the atomic bombings of 1945 and of current U.S. nuclear policy. Our greatest concern is that the disturbing issues raised by the atomic bombings in 1945 will not be addressed in the planned exhibit and that President Truman's use of atomic weapons will legitimize the Bush administration's current effort to lower the threshold for future use of nuclear weapons. Whatever the National Air and Space Museum's conscious intention, any effort to treat the atomic bombings of 1945 in a celebratory fashion or to display the plane that dropped the first atomic bomb solely as a "magnificent technological achievement" can only dishonor the museum and the nation and serve the purposes of those who seek to normalize nuclear weapons and facilitate their future use.

We intend to use this exhibit, the presidential elections, and the upcoming 60th anniversary of the atomic bombings to stimulate a national discussion of U.S. nuclear history and current policy and to work with like-minded groups in other nations. Most Americans remain unaware of the policy changes adopted in the 2001 U.S. Nuclear Posture Review, which prompted the New York Times to editorially condemn the U.S. as a "nuclear rogue" nation, and of the measures taken by the Bush administration to produce a new generation of "more usable" nuclear weapons. The significance has not been lost on international leaders. In his stirring Peace Declaration on August 6 of this year, Hiroshima Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba warned, "The nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the central international agreement guiding the elimination of nuclear weapons, is on the verge of collapse. The chief cause is U.S. nuclear policy that, by openly declaring the possibility of a pre-emptive nuclear first strike and calling for resumed research into mini-nukes and other so-called 'useable nuclear weapons,' appears to worship nuclear weapons…." Or as Joseph Cirincione, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace's nuclear expert, noted, the Bush administration is now "saying that nuclear weapons are no longer the weapon of last resort…"

To initiate this desperately needed national conversation on nuclear arms policy, past and present, the Committee for a National Discussion of Nuclear History and Current Policy calls upon Smithsonian Institution Secretary Lawrence Small, John Dailey, and other leaders of the Smithsonian to sit down with our representatives and those of other interested organizations and to jointly plan a balanced exhibit that places the bombings in their historical context, educates viewers about the consequences of past nuclear weapons use, and explains the controversy surrounding the use of the atomic bombs that antedates the deployment of the Enola Gay itself.

We also call on the Smithsonian to co-sponsor a joint conference or a series of conferences that explore the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the place of nuclear weapons in the modern world. Given the seriousness of the current nuclear crisis, should the Smithsonian not accede to this request for a fair and balanced presentation and a reasoned discussion of the many profound issues involved, we will join with others in this country and around the world to protest the exhibit in its present form and to catalyze a national discussion of critical nuclear issues.

Early Signers Include:

Jean-Christophe Agnew, Professor of American Studies and History, Yale University

Gar Alperovitz, Author, The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb & Atomic Diplomacy: Hiroshima and Potsdam; Bauman Professor of Political Economy, University of Maryland

Joyce Appleby, Professor Emerita of History, University of California, Los Angeles

Thomas Bender, Professor of History, New York University

Susan Porter Benson, Professor of History, University of Connecticut

Kai Bird, coeditor, Hiroshima's Shadow and Author, The Color of Truth: McGeorge Bundy and William Bundy, Brothers in Arms

Casey Nelson Blake, Professor of History and American Studies, Columbia University

William Blum, Former State Dept. official, freelance journalist, author of Rogue State: A Guide to the World's Only Superpower

Julian Bond, Professor, School of Public Affairs, American University; Department of History, The University of Virginia

Paul S. Boyer, Merle Curti Professor of History Emeritus, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Barbara Brooks, Professor of History, City College and the Graduate Center, City University of New York

Rogers Brubaker, Professor of Sociology, University of California, Los Angeles

Una Chaudhuri, Professor of English and Drama, New York University

Ira Chernus, Professor of Religious Studies, University of Colorado at Boulder

Lizabeth Cohen, Howard Mumford Jones Professor of American Studies, Harvard University

Steven Cohen, Professor of Education, Tufts University

Barry Commoner, Director Emeritus, Center for the Biology of Natural Systems, Queens College, CUNY

E.L. Doctorow, Author

John W. Dower, Professor of History, MIT; Author, Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II

Daniel Ellsberg, Author, Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers

Sara M. Evans, Professor of History, University of Minnesota

Lane Fenrich, Professor of History, Northwestern University

Michael Frisch, Professor of History/ Senior Research Scholar, University at Buffalo, State University of New York

Joseph Gerson, Director of Programs, American Friends Service Committee, New England Regional Office

John Gillis, Professor of History, Rutgers University

Todd Gitlin, Professor of Journalism and Sociology, Columbia University

David Glassberg, Professor of History, University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

Linda Gordon, Professor of History, New York University

Laura Hein, Professor of History, Northwestern University

Margot A. Henriksen, Professor of History, University of Hawaii at Manoa; Author, Dr. Strangelove's America: Society and Culture in the Atomic Age

Hosea Hirata, Professor, Director of the Japanese Program, Tufts University

Stanley Hoffmann, Buttenwieser University Professor, Harvard University

Gerald Horne, John and Rebecca Moores Professor of African-American History, University of Houston

Matthew Frye Jacobson, Professor of American Studies and History, Yale University

Ira Katznelson, Ruggles Professor of Political Science and History, Columbia University

Michael Kazin, Professor of History, Georgetown University

Ron Kovic, Author, Born on the Fourth of July

Wendy Kozol, Professor of Gender and Women's Studies, Oberlin College

David Krieger, President, Nuclear Age Peace Foundation

Peter J. Kuznick, Professor of History, Director, Nuclear Studies Institute, American University

Walter LaFeber, Professor of History, Cornell University

Norman Lear

Richard Ned Lebow, James O. Freedman Presidential Professor of Government, Dartmouth College

Susan E. Lederer, Professor of History of Medicine, History, Yale University
Steve Leeper, US representative, World Conference of Mayors for Peace

Mark H. Leff, Associate Professor of History, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Norman Levitt, Professor of Mathematics, Rutgers University

Susan Lindee, Professor of History and Sociology of Science, University of Pennsylvania; Author, Suffering Made Real: American Science and the Survivors at Hiroshima

Robert Jay Lifton, Visiting Professor of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School; Co-author, Hiroshima in America

Arjun Makhijani, President, Institute for Energy & Environmental Research

Jane Mansbridge, Adams Professor, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University

Kevin Martin, Executive Director, Peace Action

Paul H. Mattingly, Professor of History; Director, Program in Public History, New York University

Elaine Tyler May, Professor of American Studies and History, University of Minnesota; Author, Homeward Bound: American Families in the Cold War Era

Robert W. McChesney, Research Professor of Communication, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Brent Meeker, Science and Engineering Fellow of the Naval Air System Command

Everett Mendelsohn, Professor of the History of Science, Harvard University

Zia Mian, Program on Science and Global Security, Princeton University

Richard H. Minear, Professor of History, University of Massachusetts, Amherst; Translator of Hiroshima literature

David Montgomery, Farnam Professor of History Emeritus, Yale University

Bradford Morrow, Author, Trinity Fields and Ariel's Crossing; Professor of Literature, Bard College

Robert K. Musil, Executive Director and CEO, Physicians for Social Responsibility

David Nasaw, Distinguished Professor of History, CUNY Graduate Center

Orlando Patterson, John Cowles Professor of Sociology, Harvard University

John Polanyi, Nobel Laureate, Chemistry, 1986

Leo P. Ribuffo, Society of the Cincinnati George Washington Distinguished Professor, Department of History, George Washington University

Robert J. Richards, Professor of History, Philosophy, and Psychology and Director, Morris Fishbein Center for the History of Science and Medicine, University of Chicago

Daniel T. Rodgers, Henry Charles Lea Professor of History, Princeton University

Roy Rosenzweig, Professor of History and Director Center for History and New Media, George Mason University

Andrew Ross, Professor of American Studies, New York University

Joseph Rotblat, Nobel Peace Laureate, 1995

Eric Schneider, Associate Director for Academic Affairs, School of Arts and Sciences, University of Pennsylvania

Mark Selden, Professor of Sociology and History, Binghamton University; Author, The Atomic Bomb. Voices From Hiroshima and Nagasaki


Charles Sheehan-Miles, Veterans for Common Sense; Executive Director, Nuclear Policy Research Institute

Ann Sherif, Professor of East Asian Studies, Oberlin College

Michael Sherry, Richard W. Leopold Professor of History, Northwestern University; Author, The Rise of American Air Power: The Creation of Armageddon

Martin J. Sherwin, Walter S. Dickson Professor of English and American History, Tufts University; Author, A World Destroyed

Rev. William Sinkford, President, Unitarian Universalist Association

Damu Smith, founder, Black Voices for Peace

Alan Sokal, Professor of Physics, New York University

Paul Spickard, Professor of History and Asian American Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara

Jessica Wang, Professor of History, University of California, Los Angeles

Robert Westbrook, Professor of History, University of Rochester

John Whittier Treat, Professor of Japanese, Yale University; Author, Writing Ground Zero: Japanese Literature and the Atomic Bomb


Frank von Hippel, Professor of Public & International Affairs of the Woodrow Wilson School, Princeton University

Daniel J. Walkowitz, Director, Metropolitan Studies, Professor of History, New York University

Charles Weiner, Professor Emeritus, History of Science and Technology, MIT.

Richard Weiss, Professor of History, UCLA

Geoffrey White. Professor of Anthropology, University of Hawaii

Jon Wiener, Professor of History, UC Irvine

Garry Wills, Author, Lincoln at Gettysburg

Lawrence S. Wittner, Professor of History, State University of New York, Albany

Lisa Yoneyama, Professor of Cultural Studies and U.S.-Japan Studies, Department of Literature, University of California, San Diego

Marilyn B. Young, Professor of History, New York University

Howard Zinn, Professor Emeritus, History, Boston University; Author, A People's History of the United States

(Institutional affiliations added for purposes of identification only.)


Related Links

  • Harry Truman on Trial: The Decision to Drop the Atomic Bomb (HNN)

  • Hiroshima ... The Anniversary We Misremember (HNN)
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    More Comments:


    John Dwight - 1/20/2004

    From your Statement of Principles

    We are not, however, opposed to exhibiting the Enola Gay. Much to the contrary, we welcome any exhibition that will spur an honest and balanced discussion of the atomic bombings of 1945 and of current U.S. nuclear policy.

    Then let the Display Be!!!


    Steve Brody - 11/18/2003



    “I seem to recall from my studies that the use of the A-Bomb was over kill”

    “A blockade would have probably been enough to bring and end to the war." -- Jerry West,11/10/03

    Jerry, in this same post, you urged me to “do a bit of reading and refreshing before declaring that there was any reasonable need to use the bomb.” I suggested that these statements were speculative and unpersuasive.

    “If I had evidence I wouldn't be speculating as much. Careful reading of my part of this discussion will reveal that I don't claim to have evidence, despite repeated requests to furnish it.” --Jerry West, 11/17/03

    "I would agree that if the only choices were invasion or bomb, the bomb was probably the better alternative." —Jerry West, 11/17/03

    Jerry, there’s always room for speculation. Speculation, absent evidence, however is idle speculation and as such, not very persuasive.

    At any rate, it appears that the Committee has gotten what it is after—A spirited debate about the use of the A-Bomb.

    Until we fence again, Steve


    Jerry West - 11/17/2003

    -
    Steve Broady wrote:

    Jerry, if you have evidence....

    JW:

    If I had evidence I wouldn't be speculating as much. Careful reading of my part of this discussion will reveal that I don't claim to have evidence, despite repeated requests to furnish it.

    What I do have is skepticism and an open mind, which does not mean that I am saying that others do not.

    Presenting evidence that prominent peace advocates said that the bombs were critical in their success to win over the Emperor does not prove that without the bombs the Emperor would not have been won over later on as the situation progressed.

    Yes, the bomb was an important factor in ending the war when and how it ended. No debate on that. Would the war have ended without it and without an invasion is another question.

    SB:

    What I would like to see is your evidence for the implication that the plans were “just as much a political bargining tool as a military move”,....

    JW:

    See above for evidence or lack thereof. But one could say that almost every move that one country makes in regards to another in a dispute has more than one application. Like you pointed out, the plan was subject to negotiations after the bombing. It may have been subject to negotiations without the bombing also, depending on what was being offered and what stood to be lost by not negotiating.

    At the end of the day, no matter how much evidence we pile up, there will probably always be some room for speculation.

    As far as learing something from all of this and finding a moral lesson, however, looking at the end of the war is non-productive. The important lessons to be learned about the Pacific War are not how it ended, but how it came to happen in the first place.


    Steve Brody - 11/17/2003

    “To a degree it depends on which evidence and how one interprets it. And I am certainly not saying that what I proffer is the correct interpretation. It is just one that I have not ruled out pending more evidence. “

    Jerry, if you have evidence that the “peace advocates” in Japan were on the verge of prevailing over the militarists, let’s have it. I’ve presented quotes from three of the most important “peace advocates” in Japan in 1945, all stating clearly that the A bombs were critical to their success in winning over the Emperor.

    Without evidence, all you are really doing is speculating. A failing common to most of the people who claim the bombing was unnecessary.

    “..what I am saying is that the preparations to meet an invasion do not necessarily rule out concessions at the negotiating table, whereas failing to make serious preparations certainly does weaken one's bargaining position.”

    Jerry, I didn’t deny that the Ketsu-Go invasion defense plan was subject to concession at the bargaining table. Obviously it was, AFTER the bombings. What I would like to see is your evidence for the implication that the plans were “just as much a political bargining tool as a military move”, and that it didn’t necessarily indicate a “real intent” on the part of the Japanese.


    Jerry West - 11/17/2003

    -
    Steve Brody wrote:

    Jerry, what you proffer is not born out by the evidence.

    JW:

    To a degree it depends on which evidence and how one interprets it. And I am certainly not saying that what I proffer is the correct interpretation. It is just one that I have not ruled out pending more evidence.

    SB:

    Jerry, you’ve yet to provide any persuasive evidence that your speculative alternatives were more “scrupulous” than the bombings.

    JW:

    I don't know if they are and haven't seen enough evidence to close the book either way. Unfortunately I have been away from the field for a number of years and am not up on current scholarship. Were I, my opinions might be different. From what I do know I think that it is still an interesting topic to pursue.

    SB:

    You imply that the Ketsu-Go defense plan may have been a diplomatic maneuver, rather than a serious intent to inflict maximum damage to the Allies. If that were so, wouldn’t the Japanese have trumpeted their preparations, to cause the Allies pause? Instead, these preparations were carried out in secret, in order to surprise the Allies.

    JW:

    Who will believe you if you do not carry on like you are serious? And, I am not saying that it was soley a diplomatic manuever, what I am saying is that the preparations to meet an invasion do not necessarily rule out concessions at the negotiating table, whereas failing to make serious preparations certainly does weaken one's bargaining position.

    I would agree that if the only choices were invasion or bomb, the bomb was probably the better alternative. My real concern is whether invasion or bomb were the correct alternatives and whether either one was necessary, not from an emotional perspective, but from a pragmatic one that considered total lives expended to end the war.


    J. Caramello - 11/16/2003

    Mr Dresner: I don't know how old you are but I do remember vividly our soldiers, sailors and marines on Okinawa in the fight of their lives trying to stay alive against the fanatically vicious Japanese who who were desperately trying to die and take us with them. The atomic bombs ended the war and if he elite progressive liberals of 2003 don't like that, that really is their problem. They will always despise those of us who fight the nation's wars and we will always despise them as fifth columnists and America haters.


    Steve Brody - 11/16/2003


    “I don't disagree with what you say other than that I think we have a different interpretation of the possibilities given time. Who is to say that even without the A bomb the peace faction would not have finally found a way to end the war without the feared carnage? The golden opportunity of the bomb could have been a bit of breeze hitting a man balanced on one toenail on a precipice.”

    Jerry, what you proffer is not born out by the evidence. There was nothing in the Japanese response to the Potsdam Declaration to suggest the Japanese were wavering in the face of imminent destruction. The major Japanese “peace advocates” insist that it was the A bomb that strengthened their hand and allowed them to carry the day against the militarists. In addition to those I quoted, Koichi Kido, one of Emperor Hirohito's closest aides, said later, "We of the peace party were assisted by the atomic bomb in our endeavor to end the war”.

    You imply that the Ketsu-Go defense plan may have been a diplomatic maneuver, rather than a serious intent to inflict maximum damage to the Allies. If that were so, wouldn’t the Japanese have trumpeted their preparations, to cause the Allies pause? Instead, these preparations were carried out in secret, in order to surprise the Allies.

    “If we had not have had the bomb, I wonder if we would have invaded or just starved them out?”

    Anyone who wonders about our intent to invade should read about Operation Downfall and the Olympic/Coronet landing plans. There is no doubt that but for the A-bomb and Japan’s subsequent surrender; Allied forces would have begun the invasion of Japan on 11/1/45.

    Incidentally, it was later discovered that Japanese High Command had given orders to kill all Allied POW’s in the SE Asian theater, the moment that theater was invaded by the Allies. British troops were scheduled to land in that theater to retake Singapore less than three weeks after the Japanese surrender. It is probable that upwards of 400,000 British and Commonwealth prisoners would have been massacred if the Japanese had not surrendered.

    “The A bomb which the Japanese may not have known about or appreciated of course reduced the value of the chips to nothing more than Allied scruples.”

    Jerry, you’ve yet to provide any persuasive evidence that your speculative alternatives were more “scrupulous” than the bombings.




    Jerry West - 11/16/2003

    -
    Steve Broady wrote:

    ....what’s clear is that the militarists held the upper hand, until the A-bombs were used. Japanese historians, like Sadao Asada of Doshisha University in Kyoto, note that....

    JW:

    Steve, I don't disagree with what you say other than that I think we have a different interpretation of the possibilities given time. Who is to say that even without the A bomb the peace faction would not have finally found a way to end the war without the feared carnage? The golden opportunity of the bomb could have been a bit of breeze hitting a man balanced on one toenail on a precipice.

    SB:

    Anyone that thinks the Ketsu-Go defense plan was “just for show” needs to read Tim Maga’s book on the invasion. These preparations were serious and extensive and involved thousands of Kamikaze planes, boats and submarines, as well as upwards of 2 million troops.

    JW:

    Of course they were serious, they would have to be to be effective diplomatically, and certainly prudent if diplomacy failed. Unfortunately they may also have been counter productive if they factored into the Allies decision to use the bomb.

    If we had not have had the bomb, I wonder if we would have invaded or just starved them out?

    SB:

    You can hardly blame Truman for not relying on what Japan had done in 1853 for guidance as to what it was planning to do in 1945.

    JW:

    I doubt if Truman had much of a grasp of Japanese History. Dr. Dresner may want to take issue with me, but I think that Western attitudes and ignorance of Japan over the preceeding century played a role in creating the path that lead to the Pacific War in the first place.

    The difference between Tarawa, et al and the reduction of the home islands is that by 1945 there were probably not many bargaining chips left in resistance. The A bomb which the Japanese may not have known about or appreciated of course reduced the value of the chips to nothing more than Allied scruples.


    Steve Brody - 11/16/2003


    “I would not put too much weight on the views of the populace as opposed to those of the governing class.”

    “The militarists were losing face, though”

    Less than 2 weeks before the first bomb was dropped, the Allies issued the Potsdam Declaration, warning Japan of total destruction if they did not promptly surrender. On July 28, Premier Suzuki, rejected the Declaration as unworthy of reply. Eight days later the bomb was dropped.

    Jerry, what’s clear is that the militarists held the upper hand, until the A-bombs were used. Japanese historians, like Sadao Asada of Doshisha University in Kyoto, note that Japanese wartime leaders who favored surrender view the A bombs as salvation. Hisatsune Sakomizu, chief cabinet secretary in 1945, has been quoted “The atomic bomb was a golden opportunity given by heaven for Japan to end the war." Although the “peace advocates” were few, their hand was strengthened immeasurably by the A-bombing. Mitsumasa Yonai, the navy minister at the time, described the A bombs as a "gift from heaven."


    “Peparing for an invasion is just as much a political bargining tool as a military move. It does not necessarily indicate what your real intent is.”

    Anyone that thinks the Ketsu-Go defense plan was “just for show” needs to read Tim Maga’s book on the invasion. These preparations were serious and extensive and involved thousands of Kamikaze planes, boats and submarines, as well as upwards of 2 million troops.

    “But part of that character has been adaptability. The situation facing Japan in 1945 was worse than the one that changed the country in 1853 although Nimitz would have been ill advised, in my opinion, to sail into Tokyo Bay on a cold call looking for a capitulation.”

    You can hardly blame Truman for not relying on what Japan had done in 1853 for guidance as to what it was planning to do in 1945. Especially in light of the more recent experiences of Tarawa, Saipan, Pelilieu, Guadalcanal, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa. All battles in which the Japanese fought to the death despite imminent defeat and annihilation.

    Dr. Dresner, your “ morally pure event” remark, I assume, is a bit of irony directed at those who defend the use of the A-bomb. As I’ve said, I view its use as a tragic and sad necessity, which was probably more pure than the continued firebombing that you proposed in an earlier post.


    Jonathan Dresner - 11/16/2003

    Like I said, the debate is pretty endless.

    One thing that I learned in my studies (did I mention the Ph.D. in modern Japanese history? I'm quite sure I read something about Okinawa.... and a few things about Japan before the war and during the war and after the war; probably all that historical perspective is what makes me unable to see the 'truth' of this one morally pure event) is that some debates you only get into if you are truly willing to devote yourself to them, because the partisanship is intense, and the discussion tends to circularity.

    Until next time!


    Jerry West - 11/16/2003

    -
    Steve Brody wrote:

    While it was true that support for the war was not universal, it was almost so. Much has been written about the fact that until Hirohito’s surrender broadcast to the Japanese people, most believed that Japan was winning the war.

    JW:

    I would not put too much weight on the views of the populace as opposed to those of the governing class.

    SB:

    The “peace faction” was weak and impotent in the face of the militarists.

    JW:

    The militarists were losing face, though.

    SB:

    Witness the massive preparations that the Japanese were undertaking to repel the expected invasion. They may have been beaten, but they apparently did not know it.

    JW:

    Peparing for an invasion is just as much a political bargining tool as a military move. It does not necessarily indicate what your real intent is.

    SB:

    The speculation as to alternatives to the use of the A-bomb ultimately is unpersuasive because every alternative depends for success on unlikely scenarios and Japanese conduct which was out of national character.

    JW:

    But part of that character has been adaptability. The situation facing Japan in 1945 was worse than the one that changed the country in 1853 although Nimitz would have been ill advised, in my opinion, to sail into Tokyo Bay on a cold call looking for a capitulation.

    I am not convinced that there were not other less lethal ways to end the war with Japan. Of course this may be only because I have not seen enough reliable information to convince me otherwise, which could be my fault, but your points are well taken.


    Steve Brody - 11/15/2003

    “they basically surrendered once before almost a century earlier under the threat of superior military intervention.”

    I argue that it would take something as shocking as the A bomb to cause a shift in the Japanese paradigm in order to make surrender thinkable to them. Something as shocking as Commodore Perry’s black ships must have been to the Japanese in 1853.

    Or were you suggesting that Admiral Nimitz recreate Commodore Perry’s feat by sailing into Tokyo Bay and demanding Hirohito’s Surrender?

    While it was true that support for the war was not universal, it was almost so. Much has been written about the fact that until Hirohito’s surrender broadcast to the Japanese people, most believed that Japan was winning the war. Even those who knew of the losses at Saipan and Okinawa believed it to be part of a grand strategy to bring the “Barbarians in close”, so that a massive “death blow” could be administered from the Home Islands. The “peace faction” was weak and impotent in the face of the militarists.

    It is also true that the Japanese home Islands were ravaged by strategic bombing. That fact clearly, however, was not likely to cause the Japanese to surrender. Witness the massive preparations that the Japanese were undertaking to repel the expected invasion. They may have been beaten, but they apparently did not know it.

    Jerry, no historical issue is “beyond questioning”. But mere questioning of a historical issue is not persuasive. The speculation as to alternatives to the use of the A-bomb ultimately is unpersuasive because every alternative depends for success on unlikely scenarios and Japanese conduct which was out of national character. Conduct that was unlikely to predicted or relied upon by US war planners.


    Jerry West - 11/15/2003

    -

    Steve:

    It may not have been likely, and there may be significant scholarship that has covered it that I haven't seen, but on the other hand we know, at least according to what I remember, that:

    Support for the war was not universal

    There was a peace faction in the governing class

    Industrial capacity was toast with little hope of reviving without raw materials from outside of Japan

    Starvation was a possibility without outside help

    The Japanese have a history of adapting to circumstances, and

    they basically surrendered once before almost a century earlier under the threat of superior military intervention.

    So, the issue of whether we took the right path for our stated aims or not may be worthy of further research and debate, as well as whether or not the stated aims were the most compelling ones.

    I am not arguing that the "ended the war to save lives" scenario is definitely the wrong one, but I do think that it is not beyond questioning.


    Steve Brody - 11/15/2003


    Jerry, I know you have argued that a blockade probably would have resulted in Japan’s surrender. That’s not likely. There are no historical examples of nations the size of Japan capitulating as a result of a blockade. That a nation with Japan’s antipathy towards surrender would have caved from a blockade seems particularly incredible.




    Jerry West - 11/15/2003

    -
    Okinawa is indeed a good example of the Japanese military ethos in which honor is more important than life and defeat is seen as a dishonor. One reason POWs were treated the way they were by the Japanese is because they had no respect for those who dishonored themselves by surrendering.

    However, as we saw with their eventual surrender, honor may not be quite as terrible as national extinction. :)

    In the case of using the A bomb, the example of Okinawa is valid if we assume that invading Japan proper was necessary. That was certainly the argument used to justify the bombing. And if the invasion was necessary, then the bomb was justified in my view.

    The question is, though, was invading Japan necessary to end the bloodshed in the Asian theater? Depending on the answer we find to that seriously affects how we view the necessity of the bomb.

    That a nation is war weary is neither a good reason or moral grounds for killing people that you do not have to. Neither is revenge nor punishment.


    Bill Heuisler - 11/15/2003

    Professor Dresner,
    Mr. Brody rightly brought up Okinawa. I should've used that awful campaign rather than the earlier and distant Nanking.
    Are you aware that in April, May and June of 1945 we lost 12,000 American dead, 35,000 American wounded and 300 ships either sunk or badly damaged? The Japanese lost at least 100,000 troops killed and more than 100,000 Okinawan civilians were killed. The Japanese refused to surrender or parley and forced us to hand-to-hand combat mingled in with Okinawan civilians at the end.

    All these dead and wounded on an island nowhere near the size of any Japanese homeland island. There were very few Japanese captured and those were too badly injured to resist.

    When you pass off decisions made at the end as those of a war weary nation you are correct, but surely you must also admit the lessons of Okinawa were stark, terrible and unmistakable. It is a sad, horrible truth that we learned the atomic bomb was the most merciful way to put an end to the madness that was the Empire of Japan. Okinawa was merely prologue. Thank God we avoided the play.
    Bill Heuisler


    Steve Brody - 11/15/2003

    Whenever we examine these events, 60 years after the fact, I believe it important to remember that the decision to use the bomb was made by the leaders of a war-weary nation, with imperfect information, and with the recent experience of Okinawa, where the Japanese had refused surrender, despite being defeated and facing annihilation. An enemy in fact that had no history of ever surrendering.


    Jerry West - 11/14/2003

    -
    Jonathan Dresner wrote:

    But at some point we need to clarify what we're arguing about so that we might come to a conclusion, instead of an exhaustion.

    JW:

    Sometimes the argument might be exactly what are we arguing about. :)

    In the case of the A bombs there may never be a satisfactory conclusion for everyone because we may never possess all of the details necessary to lock down one difinitive explanation for the event.

    The best that I hope for is that by considering various possible explanations we may broaden our thinking which could help us in making future decisions.


    Jonathan Dresner - 11/14/2003

    I see the debate has died down. Not ended, of course, just petered out. Whoever has the most energy gets the last word in these discussions. They are endless, because the issues are so many, and so important, and often so personal, that debate and discussion changes few minds.

    We are very far from a consensus on the atomic bombs, and I suspect we will remain so for a long time yet. Not that there aren't pockets of consensus: most Japanese feel one way (not necessarily the way you think!); most Americans feel another way (pretty much what you'd expect), except for the activist corps; and most of the rest of the world has a very different take than either of the participant societies.

    But much of the debate is a veiled discussion of the present, much is about guessing what didn't happen; and the core of the debate is a question of injustice which very much turns on the counterfactual estimations of the situation. Neither side is in a great position, truthwise.

    Not that the questions aren't worth asking and arguing every so often. They are. But at some point we need to clarify what we're arguing about so that we might come to a conclusion, instead of an exhaustion.


    Bill Heuisler - 11/13/2003

    Oscar,
    My information (memory) was incomplete. The name of the novel is "Death is Lighter Than a Feather" by David Westheimer.
    One of the best, most completely researched novels on The War if we Hadn't Dropped the Bomb I've ever read. I'm going to look for it again in Amazon.
    Bill


    Bill Heuisler - 11/12/2003

    Oscar,
    Monday morning quarterbacks annoy me unless they can produce something other than angst. Turtledove produces alternate fiction, but these whining blame-America-always types seem only able to produce tears, anger and pseudo-righteousness.

    1)The groups don't acknowledge Japanese atrocities, nor does their government. A poster speculated they might, but they never have. Remember Nanking killed more civilians than both bombs.

    2)Public approval of the A-Bomb solution was nearly unanimous at the time in a war-weary US. Few leaders, military or otherwise, made their unpolitic misgivings known at the time. Odd they should do so now, but we mellow as we age...don't we?

    Dropping the Atomic bomb was the best alternative among a limited few. Millions of humans (Japanese & American) are alive today because protracted obliteration of Japanese cities by fire-bombing and a systematic urban slaughter by infantry was avoided.
    No person of my generation has denied the probable bloodbath.
    During my youth the subject came up often among vets and the mood was always celebratory because they knew what particular Hell fighting the Japanese had been - and what they'd avoided.

    Please excuse my anomosity for the eternal gainsayers of the Left who, year after year, always find a new reason to dislike the US and to complain about things they can only imagine.
    Best, Bill

    ps - a good novel on the subject is "Lighter Than a Feather"


    Jerry West - 11/12/2003

    -
    Bill Heuisler wrote:

    Debate shouldn't consist of casuistic or specious word-games.
    Oversubtle, disingenuous reasoning doesn't really demonstrate your sophistication, but does expose your evasion. You wrote:
    "As for losing young men protecting freedom, some times we have, and others are debatable."
    Is that so? Then debate me without insulting my country.

    JW:

    And it was a reply to your statement:

    "We've lost young men all over the world aiding allies and protecting freedom...."

    Pointing out that some of those instances may be debatable is hardly an insult unless one believes that the US is infallible and any questioning of that infallibility is an insult.

    And not bringing up which ones are debatable is no different than making the sweeping statement that it was a reply to. I fail to see your exact references to where we have done what you say we have, not that it really matters. I could come up with some for you and be in agreement.

    BH:

    Since Enola Gay protestors criticize US past and present - President Truman and President Bush - but fail to acknowledge past Japanese atrocities, their authority in this discussion is tenuous and their judgements hypocritical.

    JW:

    Sounds like my critque of those who readily attack opponents of US policy while refusing to acknowledge past US actions. Perhaps their authority in discussions of US policy is tenuous and hypocritical.





    Jonathan Dresner - 11/12/2003

    Mr. Thomas and Dr. Luker,

    Apparently the misattribution to Plato comes from the London War College by way of MacArthur (http://plato-dialogues.org/faq/faq008.htm) and the original seems to be from a poem by George Santayana. I'm not sure what Craig is discussing in "The War Lover" but if you've got the book and the book has an actual footnote for the quotation, look it up and post it, please. I can't find it in the e-text versions of the Republic, either.


    Oscar Chamberlain - 11/12/2003

    Bill, I want to make sure that I understand you. (Seriously. That's not a rhetorical opening)

    1. There are people who think our dropping of the bomb was wrong but do not discount Japanese atrocities. To what extent is your criticism directed at them?

    2. It is wothwhile to consider aspects of the arguments against the dropping of the bomb seriously, even if your think the overall reasoning flawed. One thing they have clearly documented is a far greater degree of opposition among military leaders than had been generally recognized (particularly prior to the 1995 Smithsonian controversy). What I find disturbing about some of your posts is your apparent unwillingness to grapple with what they do get right. Or am I doing you an injustice in that comment?

    3. Finally, I would argue that this contentious and sometimes unfortunately vituperative debate is one of the glories of our country. I would be afraid to live in a place in which people did not consider and reconsider the morality of such an act. Wouldn't you?

    PS I was a "juror" in HNN's "trial of Harry S. Truman." If you want to get a rough idea of my own views on the dropping of the bomb check it out.


    Bill Heuisler - 11/12/2003

    Mr. West,
    Debate shouldn't consist of casuistic or specious word-games.
    Oversubtle, disingenuous reasoning doesn't really demonstrate your sophistication, but does expose your evasion. You wrote:
    "As for losing young men protecting freedom, some times we have, and others are debatable."
    Is that so? Then debate me without insulting my country.

    Arguing by assault is common today, but squanders good will and time. Calling the United States butcher or terrorist is an insult. Temperance in your insults will be difficult only if the insults add heft to your arguments. In any case, responding to arguments too trivial to stand alone is a waste of my time.

    Further, you expect me to shackle my arguments to the present,
    "...you lumped them in with those Japanese..." and give free rein to the opposition. Since Enola Gay protestors criticize US past and present - President Truman and President Bush - but fail to acknowledge past Japanese atrocities, their authority in this discussion is tenuous and their judgements hypocritical.
    Bill Heuisler


    Ralph E. Luker - 11/12/2003

    Would you cite chapter and verse? My search of The Republic failed to turn it up.


    Jerry West - 11/12/2003

    -
    Dave,

    I think that it is all debatable. I don't think that we can compare Japan to Germany, and I sure wouldn't want to compare the US forces to the Red Army.

    You are correct in saying that the fire bombings and etc. had not produced a surrender yet, but Japan was defeated in all but the offical act of acknowledging it. One could argue that a naval blockade would have cost little in Allied lives and would have done the trick. A somewhat less clear debate would be on which approach would cost the most Japanese lives.

    I would also hesitate to use past experiences with dictatorships to guide my approach to the Japanese. There were factions inside the Japanese ruling class that favored peace and some that favored the Soviets. The war faction was certainly losing face.

    I have been away from research and reading in this area for some time, but one thought that comes to mind is that it would be interesting to examine how close the peace faction might have been to ending the war even without the bombs.

    DL:

    Anyone who thinks hatred and vengence are not real operating factors in many, but not all, wars is living in another reality than most of us. In a perfect world, it wouldn't be so, but this isn't a perfect world.

    JW:

    We know that hatred and revenge are real operating factors when it comes to mobilizing the masses with blind patriotic zeal. But such are really not good tools for crafting policy with, and I would hope that those we place in charge are intelligent enough to make important decisions based on rational logic rather than irrational emotions.

    Of course, believing that leaders are intelligent and that intelligent people make rational decisions, one goes looking for the reasons behind the stated reasons for what appears to be irrational acts. :)


    Jerry West - 11/12/2003

    -
    Bill Heuisler wrote:

    People who try to achieve Citizen of the World status by rationalizing everything and condemning nothing except my United States disgust me (almost) beyond words. Your off-handed insult to my country....

    JW:

    I wonder who those people are? You are mistaken if you think that I condemn only the US. You are also mistaken if you think that I hate it, such an accusation (which you employ frequently) may be convenient, but it is neither true nor productive of understanding.

    AS for an insult, if you believe that history is an insult to our country there is not much that I can do about it.

    BH:

    ....but gratuitously defaming the country that provides the freedom for your life, your work and your future reflects as badly on your character as it does on your judgement.

    JW:

    I don't think reporting history is gratuitous defamation. To ignore the defects of my country and take a Pollyanna approach to its past would be a worse testement to both my judgement and character.

    No one or group is perfect (outside of religious belief), including the US. The US is not my religion.

    BH:

    Butchery and terrorism? The United States is the single greatest example of altruism in world history - particularly in the last Century. We've lost young men all over the world aiding allies and protecting freedom.... Give it a rest or name some specific incident of butchery or terrorism as American policy.

    JW:

    Being the single greatest example of altruism, as you say, does not automatically mean a country has not also committed less commendable acts. Only one example is US policy in Chile in the 1970s. To put the best light on it is to say that we could have prevented the butchery and terrorism there, but more accurate is to say that we aided and abetted it, if not instigated it. Even Colin Powell has apologized for this.

    As for losing young men protecting freedom, some times we have, and others are debatable.

    BH:

    As a proud American on Veteran's Day, how those Japanese protestors feel about their country's military past doesn't concern me even a little.

    JW:

    It should, given that you lumped them in with those Japanese who directed the war in Asia and then criticized them accordingly.

    By the way, I marched with my reserve unit today and laid a wreath at the Cenotaph.

    BH:

    ....an American's microscopic hatred for his country has begun to anger me beyond collegial boundaries and beyond shared brotherhood of The Corps.

    JW:

    Stop viewing it as hatred of the country, it isn't.


    Steve Brody - 11/12/2003


    Dr. Dresner, the problem with all of your alternatives is that they depend for success on the Japanese doing that which they never did: to surrender in the face of defeat and imminent annihilation.

    The Japanese were beaten many times during the war. The Japanese faced annihilation many times during the war. One thing the Japanese never did during the war was surrender. The fact is that in all the battles we fought in the Pacific war, hardly any POW’s were taken. Surrender was just not part of the make up of the Japanese military. Towards the end, at Saipan and Okinawa, civilians chose suicide rather than surrender.

    Can you offer any examples of the Japanese surrendering in the face of imminent defeat and death, other than after the bombings? And if you can’t, what reliance can anyone place on your speculation that some other course of action (other than the A-bomb) would have caused the Japanese to surrender?

    I won’t get into the “valuation of US soldiers lives over Japanese civilians” argument because I consider it silly and beside the point. Silly, because it would be unrealistic to expect the US to suffer the kind of casualties that were certainly in the offing if invasion occurred. Beside the point, because it was clear to all, based upon the Saipan and Okinawa experience that perhaps millions of civilians would die in an invasion.

    While it is true that the Japanese were badly beaten, it is preposterous to assert, as some have, that they were no longer capable of or willing to inflict terrible punishment on the landing assault force.

    The Japanese had a defense plan for the homeland called Ketsu-Go. This plan, which was well underway by early August and certainly would have been fully functional by 11/1/45, the planned date of the Kyushu landings, involved 10,000 aircraft, half of which were designated as Kamikazes, 13 million gallons of avgas, already stockpiled, 2 million troops, prepared artillery and machine gun positions, suicide boats, human torpedoes and children trained to strap dynamite to themselves and blow up American tanks.

    You have suggested that the argument that fewer civilians were killed by the A bomb than would have been killed by an invasion is not relevant because no serious consideration as to Japanese civilian casualties was part of the calculus of the decision to use the bomb. Some have even suggested that in order to judge the morality of the decision to use the bomb, we must not consider the question of whether fewer civilians would have been killed in an invasion. This is sophistry. The question is whether the decision to use the bomb was the correct one, not whether the US considered the correct issues in deciding to use the bomb. Has it now become the job of historians to judge morality?

    You’ve suggested that negotiations might have led to Japan’s surrender. All of the diplomatic information that MAGIC provided indicated that the Japanese would not consider unconditional surrender. One problem was the Emperor’s survival. Might the Japanese have surrendered if the terms had been softened? Perhaps, but the same could be asked of the Germans. Might they have surrendered earlier if Hitler had been allowed to stay? Perhaps, but I can say this with some confidence: there was no political will in this country in 1945 to give the Japanese a better deal than the Germans got. None.

    You’ve posited the notion that a “demonstration” might have caused the Japanese to capitulate. That is wildly speculative. I point out that the Emperor, who would have had to approve any surrender, failed to do so after Hiroshima. It was not until news of the Nagasaki bombing came, proof that the Hiroshima bomb was not a fluke, that the Emperor broke his silence and agreed to surrender. How likely is it that a “demonstration” would have swayed the Emperor? (By the way, Dr. Dresner, the “little boy” bomb, dropped from 35000 feet and failing to detonate, would have attained a terminal velocity of around 400 mph. I don’t know precisely what condition it would be in after it hit the ground, but I am certain “relatively intact”, as you suggest, it would not be).

    On July 26, eleven days before Hiroshima was bombed, the US, Britain and China issued the Potsdam Declaration. In it, the Japanese were warned that forces were being marshaled sufficient to bring about the total destruction of the Japanese Empire and called on the Japanese government to surrender. On July 28, 8 days before the Hiroshima bomb, Japanese Premier Suzuki rejected the Potsdam Declaration as being unworthy of response. The allies called upon the Japanese to the very end to surrender. But the Japanese, true to form, refused.

    Other speculative alternatives you have proffered all are unlikely to have worked.

    Psyops? After Hiroshima, millions of leaflets were dropped on other cities in Japan. These leaflets described the weapon that had been used on Hiroshima in general terms and called on the Japanese to leave their cities. Few complied.

    Blockade? Unlikely to have worked. Okinawa and Saipan were both logistically cut off from supply. Much more than the Home Islands could have been. Both were horribly vicious campaigns and Okinawa resulted in more deaths than both A bombs combined.

    More conventional firebombing? To what end. If more cities were destroyed conventionally and the Japanese were still not persuaded to surrender, the A- bombs would have to be used. Wouldn’t the people who were killed in the firebombing have died needlessly? Besides, you make one of my points. The notion of destroying cities from the air was not novel. Only the weaponry. Is one form of destruction really significantly different from another?


    Dave Livingston - 11/11/2003

    Ah well, Dr. D. doesn't care for my summation that dropping the bombs produced results, other approaches weren't. The argument that Japan was on the verge of starvation & would have soon had to given up doesn't survive the test of pat experiences where dictatorships have fought to the death. For instance, Berlin in '45. Stalin didn't care a wit how many of his soldiers died in taking Berlin, so the Soviets paid a terrible price in blood in taking the city. Why didn't the Soviets blockade and starve out Berlin, it must have worked in a within a few months? One reason why victorious armies proceed until the enemy is stomped into the dust is one cannot know what sort of destrucive rabbit the enemy may pull from his hat, given time to do so. For instance, had the Soviets awaited Berlin's fall in a few months, may not Germany have had a viable germ warfare plan to effect? We don't think so, but why take an unnecessary risk it may happen.

    And as Jerry West said earlier revenge is oft times a factor in warfare, as we all know, it was for the Soviets in WWII. Who can blame them? Had I been Soviet citizen in '44 I'd have been thursting for Prussian blood too. And were I a German, I'd yet hate the Soviets for what they did to the Fatherland. It is called human nature.

    Anyone who thinks hatred and vengence are not real operating factors in many, but not all, wars is living in another reality than most of us. In a perfect world, it wouldn't be so, but this isn't a perfect world.


    Jonathan Dresner - 11/11/2003

    Mr. Livingston writes "Success should be its own acknowledgement of need."

    A lovely aphorism, and false in almost every sense. Following that logic, almost all historical analysis could be replaced by a simple listing of events interspersed with "post hoc, ergo propter hoc." [after this, therefore because of this]

    I'm reminded of Wendell Willkie's line, "A good catchword can obscure analysis for 50 years."


    Dave Livingston - 11/11/2003

    IMHO Bill Heuisler & perhaps Jerry's comment was made tongue-in-cheek. Other posts by Jerry have led me to believe he's no Flam'n Liberal.

    One tiny bit of evidence to support Bill's case, in '62 in bush Liberia I walked into a mud wattle hut, house to those whio lived in it, to espy as its sole decoration a full page photo from "Look" or "Life" magazine of J.F.K. stuck to the round wall.

    Although most of the Islamic world resents us as the epitome of the materially advanced West, which puts their culture to shame for its backwardness, our culture, morally decandent though as it may be, IMHO, is much admired in much of the world.


    Dave Livingston - 11/11/2003

    The mention of timelines reminded me of a joke, yes, Mildred, there is another one, about historians/the study of history:

    The story is a Texas oilman goes to Cambridge Univ. to offer to fund a Chair of American History, if the university will name the progam in his honor. The offer was refused by Cambridge on the grounds that America doesn't have enough history to justify such a chair.


    Dave Livingston - 11/11/2003

    Jerry,

    Although it is debatable if it was necessary to drop the bombs on Japan, it is undebatable that massive firebombing raids by B-29s, the effective blockade of Japan by the U.S. Navy and the Soviet attack on the Japanese armies in Manchuria, essentially taking them out of the Japanese high command's equation, all together failed to produce a surrender by the government of Japan, but the whalloping with those two, bombs did produce an immediate suit for peace. No? Success should be its own acknowledgement of need. No?


    Bill Heuisler - 11/11/2003

    Mr. West,
    People who try to achieve Citizen of the World status by rationalizing everything and condemning nothing except my United States disgust me (almost) beyond words. Your off-handed insult to my country is beneath your otherwise temperate prose and was not appreciated. Insulting me is fine, but gratuitously defaming the country that provides the freedom for your life, your work and your future reflects as badly on your character as it does on your judgement.

    You wrote: "expecting the people of the US to take the responsibility for the assorted acts of butchery and terrorism connected to the US government in the last 50 some years?"

    Butchery and terrorism? The United States is the single greatest example of altruism in world history - particularly in the last Century. We've lost young men all over the world aiding allies and protecting freedom and I'm heartily sick of Blame-America Socialists who can't see clearly beyond their self-righteous noses, their Howard Zinn textbooks or their latest issue of the Stalinist Nation. Give it a rest or name some specific incident of butchery or terrorism as American policy.

    As a proud American on Veteran's Day, how those Japanese protestors feel about their country's military past doesn't concern me even a little. However, an American's microscopic hatred for his country has begun to anger me beyond collegial boundaries and beyond shared brotherhood of The Corps.

    In the future, when your skepticism about - and dislike for - The United States overflows, kindly have the restraint and courtesy to consider how insults will affect polite discourse.
    Bill Heuisler


    Charles V. Mutschler - 11/11/2003

    Mr. Dresner,

    Thanks for the thoughtful response. I think we will have to agree to disagree on some of your points. " Not only don't I accept his evaluation of the position of the Japanese leadership, but he examines only the very narrow range of options which were being considered by the US military at the time. "

    I find myself much more convinced than you by Frank's evidence that there was no reason for the allied planners to expect a prompt Japanese surrender. As for examining the narrow range of options under consideration by US planners, well, that is precisely what I would expect to look at onb the subject. What *were* the planners basing their decisions on? What did they know, or think they knew about Japan? Analysis of how well their planning worked, and how accurate it was. Frank argues that the planners were correct in assessing the allied military casualty toll of an invasion as being higher than the allied military casualties following the use of atomic bombs.

    As for the "What if....?" questions, I think those are items we will never know. However, my reading of the popular press at the time suggests to me that the American public was tire dof the war and wanted it to end soon. The Soviets were tired of the war and wanted it to end soon. All the allies wanted to end the war sooner, rather than later. The use of the atomic bomb did bring the war in the Pacific theater to a quick close.

    The points raised by Jerry West are, I think, better left to analysis of the after-effects, rather than assessment of the planners. Frank's argument is that a blockade would have probably starved more people than died in the two ataomic bomb attacks. If one considers total deaths, then his argument is convincing - using atomic weapons to end the war quickly had the net effect of saving lives on all sides. If one is arguing that there were no circumstances which woud justify the use of atomic weapons, then the question is irrelevant.

    As to the length of the description on the plaque, well, my experience with museum folks is that they tend to agree that long, thoughtful entries go unread. That, I would argue, is what history books are for. I would hope the exhibit will cause people to read more on the subject, and make up their own minds about the complexities of history.

    Thanks for reading.

    CVM


    Dave Livingston - 11/11/2003

    In reaction to HNN's obsessive political correctness taking a page from Dennis Praeger I lambasted Academics for for their inherent immaturity because of their lifetime association primarily with children. But I've been chuckling for the past day or three over a posting one fellow, more alert than most here, made. He said in effect, G.I.s are more or less the same ages as college students. By and large tis true. Moreover, the observation was particularly apropos concerning Yours truly, one who taught for a couple of years before returning to school for another year before accepting a commission in the Army. :-)))

    The reason the humor of the situation is presently appreciated is I'm a mite gloomy from reading a Harry Turtledove novel. Turtledove the Scifi writer has a Ph.d in Byzantine History. He uses his education, knowledge of history, in the plots of his novels. The one I'm rerading causes my gloom because, albeit set in a supposed alternate reality, describes well the causes of the decline and collapse of the Byzantine Empire, even today an unhappy tale to some of us Christians.


    Jerry West - 11/11/2003

    -
    Bill Heuisler wrote:

    My original comments were to the lady whose friends in Japan were protesting our Enola Gay exhibit. Those who killed millions of Chinese and hundreds of thousands of other Asians - those who spat on the Geneva Convention and tortured and executed hundreds of American prisoners of war - have the effrontery to criticize our saving American lives by ending the war quickly and decisively with atomic weapons.

    JW:

    Those protesters in Japan did all of that? Most of them probably were not even born then. Perhaps one should ask them how they feel about Japan's military past.

    Let's see, atrocities happen pre 1946, the exact extent depending on how far back towards 1868 you want to go with the microscope, the folks protest in 2003, at least 57+ years later.

    Are you asking these people to take the blame for the transgressions of their ancestors? Is this any different than expecting the people of the US to take the responsibility for the assorted acts of butchery and terrorism connected to the US government in the last 50 some years?

    And, it is debatable whether the bombs were necessary to remove the necessity to invade Japan.

    Your uncles were undoubtedly happy, as were mine, but they may have been happy that a non-existant rather than real threat had been removed.


    Jerry West - 11/11/2003

    -
    Bill Heuisler wrote:

    Contiguity or some time-line proximity is more effective than pulling names out of a history book that may fit circumstances.

    JW:

    Time-line proximity is important, critiquing the Marines using Xenophon would probably be a bit of a stretch. :)

    However, I don't think that the time frames are as short as you would have them. A life time or two is probably more realistic.

    Using your logic we should forget the transgressions of Stalin and others when critiquing current manifestations of communism. Maybe not a bad idea in some cases, but not one I would want to make a rule.

    BH:

    Comparing Hussein's relations with President Reagan to W's actions last year is similarly unfair -

    JW:

    But they are connected. RR and GWB represent a continuum in political thought and policy. Likewise our relations with Castro are affected by the Batista regime and how we responded to it, and our pronouncements and actions against terrorism are colored by our long history of supporting and enabling terrorists.

    As to the Rape of Nanking, it was a horrendous war crime and the Japanese deserve no apologies for many of their acts during WWII and before, mitigating circumstances for the war notwithstanding. An old and controversial work that touches on this and is worth reading is:

    http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0688019056/qid=1068526059/sr=1-1/ref=sr_1_1/103-9149744-3755005?v=glance&s=books

    Japan's Imperial Conspiracy
    by
    David Bergamini

    It would also be worth reading the reviews that can be dug up.

    Here is a review of a book I have not read yet on the issue. The review is worth the time for those interested in voicing an opinion on the subject.

    http://www.theatlantic.com/issues/98apr/horror.htm


    Bill Heuisler - 11/11/2003

    Professor Dresner,
    My original comments were to the lady whose friends in Japan were protesting our Enola Gay exhibit. Those who killed millions of Chinese and hundreds of thousands of other Asians - those who spat on the Geneva Convention and tortured and executed hundreds of American prisoners of war - have the effrontery to criticize our saving American lives by ending the war quickly and decisively with atomic weapons.

    My uncles were very relieved when the bombs were dropped and they wouldn't have to tempt fate again assaulting another beach defended by Japanese fanatics ready to die to the last man.
    Speculation on the casualties we would've taken during an assault on the Japanese mainland by armchair quarterbacks from universities and peace movements seems so far-removed from the cutting edge as to be almost decadent...a vicarious puppet show.

    Guilt and punishment are functions of peace, not undeclared war.
    Yes, retribution has its place, but so does selfishness. We would much rather kill 250,000 Japanese than lose 250,000 young Americans. Play all the numbers games you want, they attacked us without warning and then refused to discuss peace.
    Bill Heuisler


    Jonathan Dresner - 11/11/2003

    Mr. Heuisler,

    re: balancing the Nanjing Massacre v. Hiroshima/Nagasaki

    Retribution against who? Collective guilt and collective punishment are not justice. If the atomic bombs were punishment, why did we bother with war crimes trials afterwards?


    Bill Heuisler - 11/11/2003

    Mr. Livingston,
    It was far worse than my brief account. Just the photos in James Yin Shi Young's book will force you to question the existance of a merciful and just God. Material on the subject is voluminous; most search engines and Amazon.com will provide you with many nightmares. Something missed in this discussion is retribution.
    Bill Heuisler


    Bill Heuisler - 11/11/2003

    Old history, Jerry?
    Contiguity or some time-line proximity is more effective than pulling names out of a history book that may fit circumstances.

    For instance, December/January 1937/38 was eight years from Nagasaki/Hiroshima; survivors of the Bataan Death march were still in prison camps and huge parts of China and Manchuria were occupied by the Japanese Army when the Enola Gay flew.

    On the other hand, Mossadegh and Allende are fifty and thirty years away from juxtaposed HNN subjects. Batista was overthrown in '58, but considered relevant to dead dissidents in 2003?

    Nanking '37, Pearl Harbor '41, Bataan '42 and Hiroshima '45.
    Comparing Hussein's relations with President Reagan to W's actions last year is similarly unfair - like using Xenophon's Anabasis to critique the First Marines at An Nasiriyah.
    Bill Heuisler


    Jerry West - 11/11/2003

    -
    Jonathan Dresner wrote:

    One of the starkest arguments regarding the bombs is whether or not the bombs ultimately save Japanese lives by shortening the war. There's no evidence I'm aware of that this was a factor in the decision-making process, but it is a very important part of the post-war debate.

    JW:

    As I recall the reasons given historically for using the A bombs were that they saved American lives by removing the necessity for an invasion.

    As far as history goes we should judge that decision based on the reasons stated for it and determine if in fact it was the right decision for its stated purpose, or if there was instead another purpose altogether.

    Only after the true reason for the decision is determined can we debate the morality of it or the correctness of it.

    Dragging in the argument that the bomb may have saved Japanese lives makes an interesting point for supporters of the bombing, but is divorced from the actual history of the event unless we can show that Japanese lives were a concern when deciding to drop the bombs.

    In any event I would question the either motives and morality on one hand or the common sense on the other of those who would argue that killing tens of thousands of people would lead to saving many more. There is no certainty in the outcome so the decision on those grounds would be no more than rolling dice with peoples lives.

    JD:

    Since compassion for the Japanese people didn't really enter into the discussions beforehand, it is a bit of a sleight-of-hand post-facto misdirection. But it is very much worth considering as part of the discussion of morality in war, so don't dismiss it outright.

    JW:

    I am familiar with Dower. And you are right, this is a sleight-of-hand. Arguing that the bomb saved lives to counter those who challenge the morality of using it in the first place is an argument that can only have credibility if it can be established that the bomb was used specifically to save those lives it is argued that it saved. Then we can move from morals to whether the decision was the correct one or otherwise.

    Dave Livingstone wrote:

    Can anyone deny that the Japanese were fantically bitterly waring to the very end?

    JW:

    But the end was apparently near. Look at the state of Japan in August of 1945. The first question to ask is how much did the Allied decision makers know about that state at the time.

    DL:

    The men with a crimnal mindset were not about to roll over & play dead, not until they'd been kicked in the seat of the pants. It is unrealistic to think we'd been willing to blockade Japan for perhaps years until its leaders gave in.

    JW:

    Whether their mindset was criminal or not is debatable. Be careful that such charges don't splatter back. :)

    Support for the war was not unanimous in Japan, even at the higher levels, and the infrastucture was breaking down. The military was kaput, particularly in the home islands, and industrial capacity was in shambles. Starvation was on the horizon. With a blockade they were probably no immediate threat to anyone. I would certainly welcome source material to prove otherwise.

    DL:

    Never mind, it (a blockade) might have worked, but once passions are aroused there is no way such a limp-wristed solution would have been tried. That isn't the wars to the death are fought.

    JW:

    You may have hit on the real reason, insane blood lust and revenge, though I can think of some more pragmatic.

    DL:

    In any event, the logiistics effort to permanently or at least for years blockade Japan would have been a nightmare.

    JW:

    Probably less than those to occupy Japan, which we took on immediately. We have been pretty good at maintaining and supporting naval forces, and we did have all of the islands around the Japanese homeland, including Okinawa. I don't think that blockading Japan would have been a problem at all. And it is doubtful how long they could have held out given the state of the country.




    Dave Livingston - 11/11/2003

    Dr. Dresner,

    Here's a stab at answering some of your questions, from in-the-trenchs former soldier point-of-view.

    Those engaged in warfare don't shilly-shally around lookng for the least hatmful way to destroy a deadly enemy, who by definition seeks to destroy one.

    Can anyone deny that the Japanese were fantically bitterly waring to the very end? Look at their Kamikazies, the occasional story that surfarced until a few years ago of a Japanese soldier on a tropical isle, including several in the Phillipines, supposedly unaware (or indifferent to)the war had ended holding out?

    The men with a crimnal mindset were not about to roll over & play dead, not until they'd been kicked in the seat of the pants. It is unrealistic to think we'd been willing to blockade Japan for perhaps years until its leaders gave in. Never mind, it might have worked, but once passions are aroused there is no way such a limp-wristed solution would have been tried. That isn't the wars to the death are fought.

    In any event, the logiistics effort to permanently or at least for years blockade Japan would have been a nightmare.


    Jerry West - 11/11/2003

    -
    Bill Heuisler wrote:

    The dead cry for acknowledgement; their families await apology. Logic demands history be read in context.

    JW:

    Is this really you Bill? You mean old history counts after all, like the US role in terrorism and atrocities in Latin America and other places the past 50 some years? :)

    On another note, having a fair amount of experience living with and studying the Japanese, I can tell you that many of them that I knew were critical of Japan's actions in WWII. Some of them even view Japan's support of the US following the war as an extension of the earlier errors.

    It would be a mistake to project the official actions or inactions as the case may be, of the Japanese Government onto the motives and feelings of the anti-war/anti-nuke groups in Japan.

    Were they in power you might get official appologies for Nanking and other incidents.

    Any blame for the failure of Japan to appologize for its past activities lies mostly on the shoulders of the Japanses Right and the conservative governments that the US has supported in Japan for the past half century.


    Jonathan Dresner - 11/11/2003

    Mr. West,

    One of the starkest arguments regarding the bombs is whether or not the bombs ultimately save Japanese lives by shortening the war. There's no evidence I'm aware of that this was a factor in the decision-making process, but it is a very important part of the post-war debate.

    One of the first and still most powerful criticisms of the bombs is that they represent the ultimate dehumanization of the Japanese as an "enemy race" (a dehumanization that is deeply embedded in the rhetoric of WWII, see Dower's "War Without Mercy" and note his signature above) and the valuation of US soldiers' lives over the lives of "innocent Japanese". To counter that argument, proponents and defenders like Robert Frank have tried to show that the bombs were the *least* destructive way of achieving the end of the war and therefore a good thing for Japan....

    Since compassion for the Japanese people didn't really enter into the discussions beforehand, it is a bit of a sleight-of-hand post-facto misdirection. But it is very much worth considering as part of the discussion of morality in war, so don't dismiss it outright.


    Dave Livingston - 11/10/2003

    Bill Heuisler,

    Thank you for this posting. For umpteen years the epression "The Rape of Nanking" has been familiar. Heretofore I assumed the expression ewas figurative denoting mass destruction. Now I realize the expression is be taken literally.

    And I had thought My Lai and the selective mass murder of 2,000 intelelletuals, civil servants and Catholic clergy in Hue by the Communists in 1968 wwere horrid incidents. They were, but they pale beside Nanking, eh?


    Jerry West - 11/10/2003

    -
    Charles Mutschler wrote:

    Robert Frank's book "Downfall" draws the conclusion that an embargo would have probably caused more civilian deaths due to starvation.

    JW:

    Interesting. Do you have references to primary sources showing that the Allied war planners were terribly concerned with the number of Japanese civilain deaths and that that was a factor in deciding to use the A bombs?


    Jonathan Dresner - 11/10/2003

    Mr. Mutschler,

    I would point out that you've only address two of the possibilities I raised -- embargo and invasion -- and left untouched the issue of Soviet involvement or demonstration; and in the case of invasion you've only addressed the traditional Kyushu entry strategy.

    I don't dispute that many people disagree about the historical questions. (I'm not a fan of Alperovitz, either; I've never been convinced that the racism and "impress the soviet" arguments were substantiable.) And I don't deny that there was a rationality to the use of the bombs. Even I admit that the bombs were effective. But we will never be certain about what might have happened.

    Frank is making a nearly impossible argument: not only were the bombs effective in ending the war, but NO OTHER way of ending the war wouldn't have resulted in both more US and more Japanese casualties. Not only don't I accept his evaluation of the position of the Japanese leadership, but he examines only the very narrow range of options which were being considered by the US military at the time. He doesn't address the question of demonstration (would it have really lessened the impact if we had used the bombs a few miles from Hiroshima?) nor the question of Nagasaki (why drop the second bomb so soon after the first one?)

    I don't want these issues reduced to a simple answer on a plaque.


    Bill Heuisler - 11/10/2003

    Mr. Descartes,
    Could the Jesuits have neglected dialectic in your education? Logical discussion demands logic. Many of the signers purport to be historians; whether these signers are prepared to denounce Japan is precisely the point. Note that it appears to be their point also, since the second sentence of the statement demands the incident ending the war be placed in historical perspective.

    Please read the discussion. Hidanyoko and Gensuikyo object to the exhibit because, they say,
    "Atomic bombs massacre civilians indiscriminately and are weapons that cannot be justified in humanitarian terms."

    More civilians died in Nanking than died from both atom bombs.
    The Japanese government denies Nanking, Bataan Death March,death camps, inhuman experiments, etc. even in the face of implacable evidence - no apology or acknowledgement. The colossal insolence these two groups of Japanese survivors and Japanese anti-nuke protestors exhibit can be explained only because they depend on manipulating Leftist Americans they know will ignore history and eagerly criticize the country they all seem to despise.

    The dead cry for acknowledgement; their families await apology. Logic demands history be read in context. To write of The Flood a true historian must mention Thera. That's really the point.
    Bill Heuisler


    Oscar Chamberlain - 11/10/2003

    The truly bad thing about the proposed exhibit--assuming it has been portrayed accurately here-- is the lack of any historical interpretation at all, outside of its technological importance.

    The B29 was a milestone in military technology, with its long range, large payload, and pressurized cabin. However, so were many other planes. For example the B58 Hustler was the first supersonic long-range bomber, but it does not attract nearly the same attention because it was never used.

    Yet this exhibit apparently will avoid the question of how the B29 used. To be blunt, that's cowardly.

    If I was in charge, I would try for a nuanced portrayal, focused on the controversy rather than attempting to provide a final answer. But I would rather have a simplistic interpretation of the B29’s use than none at all. A simplistic interpretation (for or against the use of the Bomb) would stimulate protests, pickets, questioning, and maybe, just maybe, a little thought.

    What's proposed here is designed to stimulate nothing. That's what’s wrong with it.


    Charles V. Mutschler - 11/10/2003

    Mr. Dresner,

    I think the argument that the alternatives to using the atomic bomb were better has been effectively answered elsewhere. Robert Frank's book "Downfall" draws the conclusion that an embargo would have probably caused more civilian deaths due to starvation. He concludes that an invasion of the Japanese home islands would probably have killed more allied troops and Japanese troops, as well as civilian deaths. The question of substantial civilian suicide following an invasion was also considered. In short, a substantive historical analysis which disputes the arguments made by Alperovitz and many of the people who believe that the US could have saved lives by not using atomic weapons.

    Frank is not alone. John Bonnett's 1996 review of "The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb, and the Architecture of an American Myth," by Gar Alperovitz on H-DIPLO disputes Alperovitz's conclusions, ad do many of the comments which subsequently appeared on H-DIPLO. Furthermore, Alonzo Hamby's review of several books on the conclusion of WWII in the Pacific Theater suggest that there are solid historical conclusions which support the US use of atomic weapons.

    Thanks for reading.

    Charles V. Mutschler


    Charles V. Mutschler - 11/10/2003

    Mr. Dresner,

    I think the argument that the alternatives to using the atomic bomb were better has been effectively answered elsewhere. Robert Frank's book "Downfall" draws the conclusion that an embargo would have probably caused more civilian deaths due to starvation. He concludes that an invasion of the Japanese home islands would probably have killed more allied troops and Japanese troops, as well as civilian deaths. The question of substantial civilian suicide following an invasion was also considered. In short, a substantive historical analysis which disputes the arguments made by Alperovitz and many of the people who believe that the US could have saved lives by not using atomic weapons.

    Frank is not alone. John Bonnett's 1996 review of "The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb, and the Architecture of an American Myth," by Gar Alperovitz on H-DIPLO disputes Alperovitz's conclusions, ad do many of the comments which subsequently appeared on H-DIPLO. Furthermore, Alonzo Hamby's review of several books on the conclusion of WWII in the Pacific Theater suggest that there are solid historical conclusions which support the US use of atomic weapons.

    Thanks for reading.

    Charles V. Mutschler


    cogito - 11/10/2003

    The Japanese record in Asia is extraordinarily bad by any human standard--posibly the worst human rights record in all of WWII. However, the museum is devoted to American history, it would be odd to devote equal time, in an exhibit on the Enola Gay and America's decision to drop the bomb, to Japanese atrocities in China.

    Certainly Japanese ruthlessness is part of the context in which the bomb was dropped. But whether or not the undersigned--or in this case the oversigned--are prepared to denounce Japan is not the point


    F.H. Thomas - 11/10/2003


    The quote in question, from "The Republic", is discussed at length in "The War Lover: A Study of Plato's Republic" by Leon Harold Craig, which considers the paradox in Plato's character on this issue.






    Jerry West - 11/10/2003

    -
    I seem to recall from my studies that the use of the A-Bomb was over kill. Japan was reduced to a junk pile, its navy sunk, its air force almost gone, its experienced pilots dead and most of what was left of its army on the Asian mainland without support.

    The allies controlled the sea and sky. A blockade would have probably been enough to bring and end in time. There was also a peace faction high up in the Japanese government/aristocracy.

    I would do a bit of reading and refreshing before declaring that there was any reasonable need to use the bomb.


    Jonathan Dresner - 11/10/2003

    Mr. Jones asks "What policy should have Truman adopted instead of dropping the bombs?"

    The options were nearly limitless, as he was winning. Dropping the bombs qualifies as the least imaginative, least thoughtful possible way to end the war:

    The atomic bombs were not the only sudden realization the Japanese had that week: in between the bombs, the Soviets, who had maintained a strict non-agression policy in Asia until then, invaded Manchuria. This was something that the Japanese were well aware that they were unprepared for, and weighed almost as heavily on the discussions as the bombs. This leads me to two conclusions: first, if Stalin hadn't stonewalled the Japanese attempts to open negotiations, the war might have ended before August; second, if the Japanese had realized (or been told) that the Soviet non-aggression pact was going to be violated, they would have realized that their conventional position was completely hopeless, and the war might have ended before August.

    There are so many other possibilities.... embargo, continued conventional bombing (another Dresden/Tokyo-style firestorm would have done as much damage), demonstration bombing (by the way Mr. Brody, if the triggers were so potentially unreliable, then dropping the bomb in Japan *without* testing it first could have delivered the bomb to them nearly intact!), making landfall somewhere other than where the Japanese knew they were planning to make landfall, improved psyops.....


    Grant Jones - 11/10/2003

    This reminds me of a story. Abraham Lincoln was being harrassed by his cabinet to fire McClellan. Lincoln replied, I'm paraphrasing, "That's all very well, you can have anyone. I must have someone."

    My question: What policy should have Truman adopted instead of dropping the bombs.


    Jonathan Dresner - 11/10/2003

    Mr. Brody,

    Actually, I fall into all three of your categories, and all three of your arguments have flaws that make them unpersuasive unless you choose to be persuaded. I could say the same thing about my positions on those historical questions. But none of those ultimately determine my position on the bomb (http://historynewsnetwork.org/articles/article.html?id=183)

    It was an atrocity, an efficient and inhumane end to a war against inhumanity. Atomic weapons should be weapons of last resort, not weapons of convenience. By using them as we did we squandered a great deal of our claim to moral superiority. We could have had them without using them and gotten much the same deterrent effect over the last sixty years.

    I wasn't really equating Truman and Hussein or advocating proliferation, but trying to point out the contradiction between our pride in the development and justification for use of these weapons on the one hand and our absolute horror at the possibility of other states having the same capacity. Triumphal exhibits at home and regime change overseas. Maybe I'm too hung up on consistency, but it bothers me.


    Bill Heuisler - 11/10/2003

    Ms. Michaud,
    The petition states the Enola Gay should be placed in historical perspective. It should. Has your joint peace group investigated a December morning in 1937 in the Chinese city of Nanking.

    Over 56 years ago, 50,000 Japanese soldiers were ordered to kill all captives. 200,000 to 400,000 Chinese lost their lives.

    As the stories go (recorded in international newspapers, Chinese government and academic documents, Japanese photographs and in the diaries of Red Cross officials stationed in Nanking) the Japanese killed so many men, women and children with machetes that their arms became tired and they had to rest before they continued. The soldiers also used bayonets, machine guns, live burial and fire. Decapitation was popular, evidenced by dozens of photographs in James Yin Shi Young's The Rape of Nanking (Innovative Publishing Group, 1996). Chinese heads were fed to the dogs. Women were raped, forced to perform bizarre sexual acts, then killed. Fathers were forced to rape their daughters, and sons, their mothers. Chinese men were forced to rape corpses. Competitions took place among Japanese soldiers to see how many Chinese they could kill in one day. For six to eight weeks, the horrors in Nanking continued unabated.

    Six to eight weeks. And this was not an isolated incident. The Japanese government has never admitted wrongdoing in Nanking.
    Does 1937 Nanking add historical perspective? Is your peace group interested only in indicting the US? Does Nanking change your view of the nuclear end to the Japanese Empire?
    Bill Heuisler


    Steve Brody - 11/10/2003


    Dr. Dresner, allow me to correct you at the outset. I do not consider myself an “avid supporter of the use of the atomic bomb in WWII”. Frankly, I find such a description somewhat offensive.

    What I have concluded is that the use of the A bomb to end WWII was an intensely tragic and sad necessity which undoubtedly cost far fewer American and Japanese lives than would an invasion.

    People who believe our use of the A bomb on Japan was wrong inevitably fall into three categories: Those who believe that Japan was a beaten nation and was attempting to surrender at the time of the bombing; those who believe we should have “demonstrated” the bomb on some unoccupied territory; and those who believe that an invasion would have cost fewer lives than the bombing. All of these theories are flawed.

    No persuasive evidence of Japan’s attempt or intent to surrender has ever been presented. There is certainly evidence that some in the Japanese government wanted to sue for peace, but it is unlikely that these individuals would have carried the day in a showdown with the Militarists, who were in favor of fighting to the bitter end. Furthermore, any surrender would have required the approval of the Emperor. Hirohito, who certainly would have known if a surrender attempt had been in the offing, lived for 44 years after the end of WWII. Not once did he ever indicate that such was the case.

    The problem with a demonstration is that only two bombs existed in August 1945. No A Bomb had ever been dropped from an aircraft. The A bomb used a revolutionary detonation system to detonate far above ground level. Nobody knew for certain that this would work. If the demonstration had failed or not impressed the Japanese, one half of the arsenal would have been wasted. Also, no one has ever posited a credible scenario by which the bomb could have been demonstrated in a sufficiently shocking manner.

    People who believe that fewer casualties would have been suffered by an invasion rely on wild underestimates of casualties. Some actually offer estimates as low as 10,000 killed and 40,000 wounded. I consider these figures to preposterously low. Anyone advancing this theory should remember that more people died during the Okinawa campaign than were killed by both the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, COMBINED. Does any serious person doubt that many times that number would have died in an invasion of the home islands?

    In your question regarding Iraq’s possession of WMD’s as a justification for war, I sense an equating of Truman’s use of the A Bomb with Hussein’s use of chemical weapons in the past. I think the two are clearly distinguishable, but you do raise an interesting question. The world should be uneasy about our possession of nuclear weapons. WE should be uneasy about our possession of nuclear weapons. It is a huge responsibility. One that I doubt anyone fully understood in early August of 1945.

    That being acknowledged, I can’t imagine that anyone would prefer North Korea, Iraq or Iran had nuclear weapons. I also doubt any rational person would equate our possession of these weapons with possession by those countries.

    Dr. Dresner, I believe the development and use of the A-bomb was proper given the information available at the time. Nothing that has surfaced since has persuaded me that the decision was incorrect. With regard to the long-term, I’m not sure that developing the bomb was a bad thing. When one considers that somewhere around 80 million people died during WWI and WWII, and that none of the wars that occurred after WWII ever developed into a worldwide conflagration, primarily because of the fear of nuclear weapons, perhaps they have been a net positive.


    Ralph E. Luker - 11/9/2003

    Mr. Thomas, You are fond of quoting Plato to the effect that "only the dead know the end of war." General McArthur was also. The problem is that no one has found it in Plato.


    Steve Brody - 11/9/2003


    Dr. Dressner (as you prefer), I’ll debate you at any time regarding whether the B-29 was a “magnificent technological achievement” or not. Considering the number of “firsts” included in the B-29, there really can be no other description. First pressurized operational bomber. First radar controlled gun-siting system. Speed, altitude, bomb load and range unsurpassed by any strategic bomber.

    While it is true that there were Jet fighters late in WWII, they really played no significant role in the outcome. All of the Jet planes used in WWII were defensive, tactical in nature, and extremely limited in range. While the Jet as propulsion system was a technological break through, WWII jet aircraft as a whole were not a huge technological leap forward.

    However, this really isn’t central to our disagreement

    It is my contention that the petition establishes only two things: The Committee is philosophically against the use of the A Bomb during WWII and the Committee is unhappy with the way the Smithsonian plans to exhibit the Enola Gay.

    You believe that the petitioners want an exhibit that merely “reflects enough context to require a little critical thought.” One that is not “anti-war or anti-bomb”.

    I can’t agree. The names on this petition are not new or unknown to this controversy. Look at the “ early signers”. Kai Bird, Bob Musil, Gar Alperovitz and others all fought bitterly the efforts of the Smithsonian to inject some balance into the prior Enola Gay exhibit. An exhibit that many came away feeling portrayed the Japanese as the victims of American aggression.

    The Committee has loaded up the petition with so much anti-bomb, anti Bush sentiment that it’s clear that the Committee has an agenda. It strains credulity to believe that they don’t intend to use this opportunity to advance it.


    Jonathan Dresner - 11/8/2003

    Mr. Thomas,

    Well, if we thought Stalin was about to develop the bomb, and we didn't have it yet, we probably would have... initiated a Manhattan project and produced a bomb in relatively short order.

    More importantly, and less counterfactually, we did develop the bomb first. But that doesn't mean that we should have used it on an urban target. Would the Soviets have been less impressed with an invitation to one of our Nevada tests? Would they have developed atomic weapons, particularly in mass quantities, if we hadn't demonstrated our willingness to use them?


    F.H. Thomas - 11/8/2003


    In this instance it is ambivalence about whether any mass killing is ever justified. Of course, then reality kicks in. Competition is in our blood. It was not without reason that Plato said, "only the dead have seen the end of war".

    This particular genie, the nuke, was coming out of the bottle anyway. Imagine the world if Stalin had got it first?


    Jonathan Dresner - 11/8/2003

    Mr. Brody (I really prefer to limit first-name communications to personal matters, if you don't mind),

    You're right: there is nothing in the article that is directly approving of the use of the atomic bomb. Except, of course, the actual exhibit itself, which is triumphal. Refering to the Enola Gay as a "magnificent technological achievement" is absurd if you just mean the bomber: prop-powered B-29s were not the most advanced aircraft of 1945, since we developed jet engines for our fighter aircraft after entering the war (sorry I don't have the reference here; I think it was 1943).

    The petition is not asking for an anti-war or anti-bomb exhibit, merely one that reflects enough context to require a little critical thought. It's entirely possible that someone might view all the information presented and come to the same conclusion you did: that the bomb was justified, no matter the long-term consequences. But to reject their plea for historical complexity when the matter is, in fact, complex is to take a partisan position.


    Steve Brody - 11/8/2003


    Frankly, Jonathan, I’m having difficulty finding any factual basis for your position that the petitioners do not take a position on the use of the A bomb during WWII. All of the quotes which I included, plus many that I didn’t, indicate a very clearly negative view of the use of the A bomb in 1945.

    If you can refer me to anything in the article that indicates approval of the use, I ‘d like to see it.

    Further, I doubt that the display of the Enola Gay will be couched in the vein that you described. That is certainly what the Committee would have us believe, but their obvious political bias makes this view suspect.

    Let’s be honest, Jonathan, this is a clearly biased group, with an agenda. The Committee is obviously disappointed that the Enola Gay is not going to be exhibited in a manner that suits their anti nuclear, anti Bush sentiments.


    Irene Michaud - 11/7/2003

    I am collaborating on a project with AFSC/Nipponzan Myohoji Peace Pagoda and Traprock Peace Center to seek the nomination and awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize 2004 for the Hibakusha/Hidankyo Organization. Please add my name to the Petition as an AFSC (Western Ma) Program Committee Member. Also, I am wondering about the possibility of collaboration between these two efforts...opposing the Enola Gay exhibit and supporting the nomination of the Hibakusha for the Nobel Peace Prize.

    Peace, Irene Michaud


    Jonathan Dresner - 11/7/2003

    Just as an aside, and related to the comments like those of Messrs. Brody, Howard and Thomas, I wonder if the avid supporters of the use of the atomic bomb in WWII would care to comment on our use of WMD-suppression as a justification for the war in Iraq?

    At some level, shouldn't our intense fear of atomic weapons in the hands of Iraq, Iran, North Korea, suggest some of the fear that the world might have of our possession (and use) of same?

    Can we agree that the short-term end was worthwhile and disagree about the long-term implications of the means and what that means about short-term solutions?

    This isn't a fully developed argument, just a nagging thought.


    Josh Greenland - 11/7/2003

    I see, Mr. Livingston.

    And what about the instructors in the military-intellectual establishment. Are they draft dodgers, too?


    Jonathan Dresner - 11/7/2003

    Mr. Livingston,

    I'm not sure how home-schooling came into the discussion; I'm not sure we disagree in principle, but I'm pretty sure we disagree on the scale and nature of the present problem. Similarly with immigration control: actually, I'm all in favor of reasonably strict monitoring of immigrant students, but the systems put in place so far put too much of the burden on the institution and are not actually carefully monitored by the government. The idea is great, but the execution stinks, so far.

    As much as I am sympathetic to the class argument, nonetheless (and increasingly, I would argue) a college-educated workforce and a college-educated military and intelligence services are not luxuries anymore. They are necessities: engineering, computer science, mathematics, linguistics, document and situation analysis (history's useful there), cultural understanding, medicine.... If you're going to fight a war, particularly a modern war, you need lots and lots of college grads.


    Jonathan Dresner - 11/7/2003

    Mr. Brody,

    I disagree with your interpretation that including the statement implies agreement. What it says to me is that there is good reason to believe that fundamental disagreements of interpretation remain and must be dealt with. These are not settled questions, and for the Enola Gay to be displayed either as an example of a generic bomber or as the "bomber that ended the war and wasn't that a great thing for everyone" makes a mockery of the concept of the museum as a place of inquiry.


    cogito - 11/7/2003

    You just keep coming, each post dumber than the last. let's see

    first you claimed all the signers were draft dogders--clearly, you were wrong--many were too old, many too young, many were women, and many other were veterans. You misread the evidence

    Then you claimed they were "children teaching children"--again wrong, as a large number of them are not even professors! Once again, misread the evidence

    Now having been shown to be a dope, you switch the ground again, dismissing their military service on the basis of what evidence? You don't know anyythig about any of these people's military service, yet you manage to dismiss it! remarkable. Don't let ignorance stop you ever, Mr. livingston!

    Then having demonstrated to all that you can't actually stick to the facts, indeed even SEE them, you add a bunch of ad hominem charges, which yet again bear no relation to the actual petition and what it says!

    Mr Livingston, I am delighted at your prediction that Bush will win! Because if your ability to analyse political facts is even half as dense, blunt and clumsy as your ability to actually read and understand the petition and its signers, I know that Bush is sure to lose.


    Steve Brody - 11/7/2003


    Mark, the Committee included the quote in their “Statement of Principles”. Although the Committee doesn’t explain what the purpose of their “Statement of Principals” is, I believe it logical to assume that it is included to describe the philosophical underpinnings of the Committee. As such, it is clear that the Committee has a position on the use of atomic weapons in 1945, which is what I meant when I challenged Dr. Dresner’s contention that the petition did not “clearly lay out an opposition to the use of the atomic bomb.”

    You’re nitpicking here, Mark. And since you like to nit-pick, allow me to pick a few of my own.

    Your statement that I was in error about the quote being in the petition is itself in error, because I never said that it was. While I did implore Dr. Dressner to “read the petition”, I never stated that all the quotes included in my comments were from the petition. So you see, Mark, you were “in error” when you said that I was “ in error”.

    Since you had difficulty providing an accurate rendition of my comments, how can I have confidence in your assurances about the Committee’s intentions? Maybe you’re wrong about that, too.

    See what I mean about nitpicking, Mark. Once you start, you never know where it will end.

    At any rate, the quote is accurate, it was included by the Committee, in their Statement of Principles, and as such, clearly puts the lie to any implication that the Committee isn’t laying out opposition on the use of the bomb in 1945. Which is what I said in the first place.

    At least we agree that the Committee has an agenda. Your bare assertion, however, that I’m in error as to the Committee’s intentions is unconvincing in the face of what the Committee has posted here. Moreover, Mark, I didn’t see your name on the petition, so may I assume your not on the Committee? If not, you have not provided any reason to believe that you are even in a position to know what the Committee’s intentions are.

    All that aside, the Petition and Statement of Principles are so larded with anti-Bush sentiments and other issues unrelated to the Enola Gay, that it is clear that the Committee intends to push some political agenda. That they might not get the chance seems to be their real problem.


    Dave Livingston - 11/7/2003

    One wiothoiut the courage or integrity to identify himself,

    Thank you for the effort expended compiling list. Now I'm made aware they are an even more deapicable bunch than before.

    Because you say someone was a veteran doesn't mean he ever carried a rifle on the field of battle. After all, the Left is forever whimpering and complaining that Geo. W served in a Guard unit. If it doesn't bug me a veteran of two tours in 'Nam, Lieutenant, 1st Infantry Division, Captain, 101st Airborne, why should it bother someone on the Left?

    American Friends Committee? IMO traitors to the United States because they provided aid and other assistance to the enemy during the Viet-Nam War.

    Ellsberg, another traitor, IMO

    Lear, an enemy of my culture, certainly no-one to admire

    Most of the rest of them, who cares? Lestist has-beens left behind by a changing world, a United States growing more conservative.

    To illustrate how out-of-touch is the Left with the American people, the voters, was demonstrated this past Tuesday, when the G.O.P. captured the state houses of Mississippi and Kentucky.

    The mood of the American people, sans the goofy Left, I am REALLY looking forward to next year's elections. The Left feels pain now? Just wait until the first Tuesday in November, 1004!

    You know, your Daddy should have washed your mouth out with soap a long time ago. Perhaps I'd better do it for him. :-)))


    F.H. Thomas - 11/7/2003


    Thank you for a valuable and thoughtful piece.

    For my part I have difficulty with the way that Hiroshima was chosen, indeed kept pristine so "learned researchers" could better evaluate the effects of blast and heat against an undefended city. The facts of war making are sometimes ghastly indeed, and as Bismark said, "the public should see neither public policy nor sausage being made".

    But in this case I am inclined to believe your assessment right. Without an overwhelming inducement, Japan may not have surrendered for a year, taking a million other lives, (not these lives,) with them.

    I always trust someone more who has walked the walk.

    (former) FSCO, IFFV Task Force South, RVN.


    cogito - 11/6/2003

    Yes, you touched the same nerve that always gets irritated when ignorant bigots make dumb pronouncements.

    A significant number of people on the list are not "children", they are TOO OLD for the vietnam draft. But you don't know that, because you haven't actually looked at the list--you're more intrrested in blanket denunciations rooted in ignorance.

    A significant number are not even professors, dumbshit. Here--I'll spell it out for you

    1. Norman Lear--TV producer (and veteran).
    2. Ron Kovic--novelist. (and veteran)
    3. E.L. Doctorow--novelist (veteran)
    4. Kai Bird--independant author
    5. William Blum--journalist, Diplomat
    6. Julian Bond--mostly a civil rights activist, a prof. after retiring
    7. Danile Ellsberg--former CIA analyst, Former Marine Company Commander
    8. Joseph Gerson, American Friend Service Committee
    9. David Krieger, President, Nuclear Age Peace Foundation
    10. Arjun Makhijani, President, Institute for Energy & Environmental Research
    11. Kevin Martin, Executive Director, Peace Action
    12. Brent Meeker, Science and Engineering Fellow of the Naval Air System Command
    12. Robert K. Musil, Executive Director and CEO, Physicians for Social Responsibility
    13. John Polanyi, Nobel Laureate, Chemistry, 198
    14. Joseph Rotblat, Nobel Peace Laureate, 1995
    15. Charles Sheehan-Miles, Veterans for Common Sense; Executive Director, Nuclear Policy Research Institute
    16. Rev. William Sinkford, President, Unitarian Universalist Association
    17. Damu Smith, founder, Black Voices for Peace
    18. Garry Wills, Author, Lincoln at Gettysburg

    Children?
    Let's see--two nobel prize winners, a couple successful novelists, a millionaire Tv producer, a physician, a Marine Corps. Company Commander, a Unitarian minister, and the president of VETERANS for commons sense. Is there ANYTHING left of your ridiculous argument?

    But it's true, there are a lot of professors on the list, and you like to belittle profesosors. Just in terms of assesssing their work, how many books have you written? Do yourself a favor--look up Roy Rosenzweig on Amazon, and see how many results you get. Or Robert Jay Lifton. Or Thomas Bender. Or any number of the people on this list.

    You're a great argument for home schooling, you are. But keep it up--I'm having a good time making a chump of you. Maybe you could make it a little harder for me by mounting a coherent argument?


    Clyde Howard - 11/6/2003

    Sorry to tell the "distinguished historians" this, but I (an attorney and - if it makes any difference - veteran of Vietnam) have no problem with the proposed display (though I would prefer it to celebrate - and I use the term advisedly and intentionally - Enola Gay's role in dropping teh first A-bomb). The B-29 was just what it is described as being. It's use as a vehicle for the delivery of the first nuke is a refelection on that.

    As to whether we should or should not have dropped the A-bombs on Japan, substantial evidence certainly exists that indicates Japan was not, pre-bomb, ready to make a prompt surrender. Delay would have cost the lives of a good many Japanese (for whom I have no sympathy - Bill Halsey's threat of 1941, following his first look at teh devastation at Pearl Harbor, should have been carried out; "When the war is over, thr Japanese language will be spoken only in HEll" or close), and quite possibly, had invasion been required, have also cost the lives of my father and three of my uncles who would have been involved. Frankly, trading the Japanese casualties at Hiroshima and Nagasaki for the assurance that those fine men would come home safe strikes me as a good bargain. I'm no lover of Harry Truman (his support of France in its attempt to recover its Southeast Asian colony set me up for my trip to Vietnam), but I certainly don't fault him on a couple of his decisions. One was to use the A-bombs. Another was his relief of Douglas MacArthur (though he waited longer than he should have for that - sometime in late 1948 or early 1949 would ahve been about right for that).

    So - proper exhibit would describe the technological status and then "This was the plane that, to the benefit of millions who would otherwise have been at risk of death or injury in combat or starvation in the hell camps operated by the Japanse for POWs, helped bring a quick end to World War Two by dropping the first nuclear bomb on Hiroshima. Sadly, the Japanese people and government continue to deny responsibility for their crimes against humanity during the period from c.1900 to 1945, and many foolish historians of a revisionistic bent seem intent on aiding them. The Smithsonian is proud, on behalf of the American people, to have this exhibit in its new facility."


    Dave Livingston - 11/6/2003

    Here I'm tempted to agree with Dr. Dresner, save for his implied suggestion that all education would best be received in a formal school system. I, a strong proponent of home schooling, disagee. IMHO we need, would be far better served as a nation and culture if more children were home schooled rather than impressed into government operated propaganda machines. Granted, for those incapable or unwilling to school their children we need formal school settings.

    But I disagree with him in regard to the draft excluding college students. Excluding them is blantant class favortism and unhealthy for our nation and society.

    Of course, the Education Mafia seeking to expand the number of jobs open to teachers wants to do nothing which may put the need for more & more teachers at risk. Ergo, their militant opposition to constraining the number of security risk foreign students coming here for their educations. Oh my golly, if we slow down the number of foreign students, regardless many of them, as was demonstrated by 9/11 have as their primary intention to destroy our nation and to kill us, what will we do with all the graduate students we keep churning out, they must have places to work, places to teach.


    Dave Livingston - 11/6/2003

    :-))) Touched a nerve, did I?

    Made my point for me, children teaching children. After all, one,nearly everyone,teaching today spent at least eighteen to twenty years as a pupil in school,kindergaten through graduate school, and now that person is in back in school with children, with whom he must feel more comfortable than with adults. Otherwise, he'd be holding a job associating primarily with adults.

    That said, as both a father& grandfather & one who himself taught for a couple of years I too very much enjoy being with children, but a difference between us is I took a few breaks, soidier, accountant for an insurance company, owener/operator of a gun shop, from associating with children primarily. And my present-day teaching, G.E.D., is more frequently for the direct benefit of aduts than for children.
    Volunteer, U.S. Peace Corps, Liberia,1962-4
    Lieutenant, 1st Infantry Division, Viet-Nam, 1966-7
    Captain,


    Dave Livingston - 11/6/2003

    Joe,

    Absolutely no kidding, I'm the elected secretary of the El Paso County, Colorado Reform Party AND a member in good standing of the National Prohibition Committee.

    Once a registered Democrat, but I determined the party no longer represented my values, so I quit it & registered as a Republican, but I became fed up with the GOP's inconsistency concerning the Pro-Life issue, so I gave up on it too,cira 1973.





    Mark Newgent - 11/6/2003


    The petition did not state, "The display rationalizes the bombing and as such it is absolutely unforgivable….Atomic bombs massacre civilians indiscriminately and are weapons that cannot be justified in humanitarian terms." A letter from Japanese bomb survivors and activists to the Smithsonian did.

    In addition to your error on the quote, your analysis of the intentions of the committee is wrong as well. Their intention is to stir debate on nuclear history and policy, hence its name "Committee for a National Discussion of Nuclear History and Current Policy." I do not agree with Kuznick's interpretation of the bombings, but I have to join him in his attempt to create an atmosphere of debate beyond the historically vapid exhibit as it currently stands. In broadly represented conference the other side of the argument (i.e., Frank and Sam Walker) would be have its moment. While the committee definitley has a political agenda it is not out to squelch debate but rather to foster it.


    Charles V. Mutschler - 11/6/2003

    Mr. Dresner,

    I think Mr. Brody has summed this up very nicely. The petitioners object to the exhibit of the Enola Gay because the analysis will not match their conclusions. Conclusions which some members of the historical community have contested.

    The petition opposing the exhibit states, “The display rationalizes the bombing and as such it is absolutely unforgivable….Atomic bombs massacre civilians indiscriminately and are weapons that cannot be justified in humanitarian terms.” This analysis has been effectively challenged by others. "Downfall," by Frank, makes a good argument for greater civilian casualties due to a prolonged blockade, had the war taken that route. Additionally, a lengthy exchange on H-DIPLO offered substantial historical analysis which contests the thesis of the petitioners. Look for the exchanges following the review of Alperovitz' book "The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb, and the Architecture of an American Myth," (Knopf, 1995), reviewed for H-DIPLO by John Bonnett.

    Charles V. Mutschler


    Steve Brody - 11/6/2003

    Oh come on, Jonathan, wake up and smell what’s being shoveled here. Read the petition.

    “…but that we fear that such a celebratory exhibit both legitimizes what happened in 1945 and helps build support for the Bush administration's dangerous new nuclear policies.”

    “And as many scientists warned in advance would happen, and as President Truman clearly understood, the incineration of Hiroshima and Nagasaki initiated a nuclear arms race that threatened to bring about the annihilation of the human species, a danger that persists today. “

    “The display rationalizes the bombing and as such it is absolutely unforgivable….Atomic bombs massacre civilians indiscriminately and are weapons that cannot be justified in humanitarian terms.”

    Are you actually going to claim (and I quote you, now) “…nor does it clearly lay out an opposition to the use of the atomic bomb”. Are you serious? Of course this is about opposition to the use of the atomic bomb. And if they can get a few digs in against the Bush administration, so much the better.

    Nor is this petition being circulated now because, as you put it, “ It points out the absurdity of displaying the Enola Gay without reference to its true historic role” Do you really believe that the Enola Gay is going to be displayed without any historical context? The petitioners are upset because the Enola Gay will be displayed in a context that they disagree with.





    Jonathan Dresner - 11/5/2003

    This petition says nothing about "conventional" weapons, nor does it clearly lay out an opposition to the use of the atomic bomb.

    It points out the absurdity of displaying the Enola Gay without referencing its true historic role.

    In fact, you agree with them, both on the importance of displaying the Enola Gay properly and on the need for a debate on the past and future use of indiscriminate weapons.


    F.H. Thomas - 11/5/2003


    The list of historians who signed this apparently have no problem with the equal number of civilians who were killed 4 months earlier, in one night in Dresden, by British incendiary bombs, or earlier in Tokyo, with American Incendiaries.

    Why the greater sympathy and outrage when nuclear weapons are involved? Burned to death is burned to death, after all, and at least you run a better chance of being stunned by blast with a nuke, before being incinerated.

    Selective outrage suggests insincerity. Why not ban the B24s which bombed Hamburg as well? The bombing of Hiroshima, however horrible, was only one of many such horrors done in the name of the United States, and worse things were done than this.

    The B29 "Enola Gay" is a piece of history. If we are going to display other strategic weapons which were used shamefully, for the mass-murder of civilians, then we should display this one as well. "Historians" wishing to rewrite history after the fact should consider getting a real job.


    Jonathan Dresner - 11/5/2003

    Mr. Livingston,

    Actually, the GI bill is widely credited with starting the growth of higher education in the US after WWII, both by facilitating HS graduates' entry into college and by paying for graduate school for a generation of teachers. And a lot of former military people do go on to graduate school and to become members of the professoriate.

    More to the point, have you considered why there was a draft exemption for teachers and students? Because even in the midst of a national crisis drawing on our reserves of manpower and economic productivity, our leaders recognized that we cannot maintain or build our national strength by cannibalizing our education system, that education is a form of service to the present and future that deserves support and protection.


    Joe - 11/5/2003

    "Never mind I no Republican" -- I no Republican, either. What you are, exactly?


    Mark Newgent - 11/5/2003

    I find the childishness lies with you Mr. Livingston. As a student of the author of this petition, I know first hand the honest effort of this group to bring about a balanced view of the Enola Gay and its historical significance. Dr. Kunznick and I disagree on the interpretation of the event, however, just because of that diasgreement I would not characterize his efforts as whinning. In fact the committee's endeavors are far from it. Anyone even remotely familiar with the 1995 fiasco understands the short shrift given to history by the Smithsonian and the Air Force Association. The committee is merely asking that the whole story be told to allow visitors to the exhibit to make up their own minds.

    Grow up Mr. Livingston!


    cogito - 11/5/2003

    Doesn't there have to have been a draft for you to be a draft doger? I'm a historian in my mid 40s. There was no draft for me to dodge. Now I know for a fact there are a number of people my age or younger on that list who could not be draft dodgers. They were too young for the draft.

    Also I noticed eighteen women on the list--Marilyn Young, for example. You may recall that women were not subject to the draft, when there was a draft. So they can't have been draft dodgers.

    There are also people on the list who would have been too OLD for the draft. They cannot have been draft dodgers, since they were not subject to the draft either.

    You have no idea whether the people involved actually served in the war or not. The list includes Norman Lear, who served in the air force, Ron Kovic, who was paralyzed in vietnam, and Howard Zinn, who served in WWII: I haven't had time to check on any of the others.

    It is not "self-evident" that because one is an academic, one canot have seen military service. There is the example of Zinn, above. There are three veterans of vietnam in my department--one served in the national guard, the others in the army. All three managed to get Ph.Ds. There are probably other veterans with Ph.D.s on the list

    My point? You make uniformed, ignorant charges based on zero evidence. You show yourself to be a fool

    Finally, whether or not the poeple on this list may or may not have been "draft dodgers" is COMPLETELY UNRELATED TO THE SUBJECT. Please take your stereotypes and tirades somewhere else, so we can actually discuss the issue


    cogito - 11/5/2003

    The exhibit has nothing to do with the Bush administration, so your attack on "historians" regarding this article is just loony. Did you actually read it? No, you just wanted to start bashing histirians.

    You don't have an argument, you have a series of complaints which bear no relation to the subject at hand. It's a sign of an undisciplined, immature mind that it can't stay focused on th actual topic.


    Dave Livingston - 11/5/2003

    It is self-evident that one reaching the status of full professor must have spent many a year teaching, as an academic, one who therefore must not for all those years have soldiered. In addition, for most of the rest of his life he was a schoolboy, Kindergarten thrigh graduate school. Ergo, he had no time free to soldier & therefore IMO is a draft-dodger.


    Dave Livingston - 11/5/2003

    The connection is the raft of whining academics who complain about virtually everthing this administration does. Never mind I no Republican & one who has become less thrilled with many of the Administration's actions it still has become tiresome to read nothing but a litnay of hatred and disagreement.

    Two reasons my formerly better opinion of academics has suffered a steep decline since I began logging onto HNN are 1) it finally dawned upon me that most academics are immature persons less worthy of attention than I had thought and secondly, it has come to my attention one important why it must be that few professional historians post on HNN.

    In the first instance, most academics are immature persons is evident. Firstly, they generally live in extremely artifical socialist environments. They associate principlely with children, fawning children. In only rare instances they've held no job outside academia. In preparing for their lifetime-to-be association with children they spent nearly all of their previous lives primarily with children, in school themselves from Kindergaten through graduate school.

    If a man hasn't held a real non-academic job in the civilian marketplace, nor has ever served in uniform, another rite of passage to adulthood, why then do we entrust our young to him, an overgrown child without adult experience?

    Secondly, why more historians don't post on HNN is in part due to the frantic political correctness of its editors. One posting here is wending one's way through a verbal minefield, guessing which words are acceptable, this week, to the editors, evidently more overgrown children who've never worked for a lenghty period of time, four years or more, outside acadwmia.

    What words are socially and politically acceptabe this week? It is a guessing game. For instance, I've learned the Q word to describe a sexual pervert, for decades in common usage across the nation, is to the hyper-sensitive editors of HNN politically incorrect.

    Now that the word Black is in vogue is the word Colored verboten? If so, what do we do with the NAACP? No doubt the N word is improper. Why so? Merely a half century ago it was in common usage nationwide, even on campus. Indeed, I grew up associating daily with a man who had my, my fater's & my mother's respect who went by the name of Nigger Gene. Evidently, today he wouldn't be permitted by White Liberals to call himself by the name he used back then.

    A few years ago in telephone conversation with an old friend, a Liberian, I used the word Black. He objected to the use of the word. And don't go calling him a dummy. He with a Ph.d from UCLA & a guy who speaks, at the very least, Kru, English, French, Portuguese, Spasnish & Arabic. But then, he once a Marxist is a convert to Catjholicism & therefore probably socially incorrect to most American academics.

    What about the American Indian? Is the word Injun forbidden? Who knows? Must one use the term "Native American," which is a derceitful and dishonest description for the Redskin? After all, the "Native American" is not nastive to America, he simply migrated here sooner than did the Spaniard and the Englishman. Must one live and pretend to believe a lie to keep the editors of HNN content?


    Jonathan Dresner - 11/5/2003

    Mr. Livingston,

    First of all, do you have any actual knowledge of draft dodging on the part of any of the signatories? Or is it just opposition to war that you object to?

    Second, if you are truly proud of the action the US took at Hiroshima, as you obviously are of Vietnam (and I don't really get the connection between Hiroshima and Vietnam, other than a willingness to allow ends to justify means), you should be signing the petition along with them: it is a travesty that the Enola Gay should be exhibited without acknowledging its true historic role.


    Dave Livingston - 11/5/2003

    The list of names above reads like a who's Who of draft dodgers during the Viet-Nam War, men who today to justify their yesteryear cowardice bleat that the Viet-Nam War was unjustified.

    We won, despite the American anti-war movement's Fifth Column back-stabbing, the Cold War, of which the Viet-Nam War was but an episode, an episode that proved crucial to the decision of the Cold War only to the degree that fighting the Viet-Nam War as long and as hard we did it demostrated to our allies around the world, especially in Europe that if we were unwilling to quickly cut & run in Viet-Nam, we were even more unlikely to cut & run out on our other allies, one's of longer standing. In that regard, our standing tall in Viet-Nam did prove crucial to our winning of the Cold War, a win which the Left clearly resents.

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