Column: A Conversation with a Survivor of Hiroshima (Letters from Japan, Part 5)

News Abroad

Mr. Thompson, Professor of Public Administration, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, is the author of Gambling in America: An Encyclopedia. His most recent book is: Parables from a Not Quite Paradise, Nv 89154: The History News Network Essays . He is a columnist for HNN.

This spring Mr. Thompson is a visiting professor at Osaka University of Commerce. This is the fifth of his"Letters from Japan."

A conversation in a cab

I met Keiko in the museum café where we shared a coffee and a light lunch. My brother was visiting me for a week and I brought him along. We were also joined by an English speaking volunteer guide who had given us a walking tour of the memorial park.

Keiko had been hired as an interpreter for a speech I was making that afternoon to the Prefecture Association of Pachinko Parlor owners.

Keiko told me that she was anxious to meet me following our brief telephone conversation two days before. In that exchange she asked me if I was looking forward to seeing Miyajima, a nearby island park with a shrine and deer running about. The park was one of three “special” places in Japan considered world heritage sights.

I wanted to tread softly but I stumbled ahead with the words, begging that she not take them as an offense, though they may have seemed offensive. I told her I knew the park was beautiful, but I had seen it before, and when I did I was not wanting to see a beautiful park, and that I had been bothered that I had been taken there as I wasted valuable time. I was given but an hour to see the memorial park. I told her I wanted to see Hiroshima not a beautiful park—that the world was full of beautiful parks, but that there was only one Hiroshima . I added my opinion that all Americans should come to Hiroshima, that perhaps we should make it a “Mecca” thing. She said that she was very impressed by my thoughts. I did not consider myself to be impressive at this place.

We took a cab from the museum to the Century 21 hotel where I presented my talk.

As we got into the cab, we laughed and traded barbs about my brother's and my gray hair, and somehow our birth years were revealed. Coincidence—Keiko, like my brother, had been born in 1937. It only took a second and it hit me. She had told us at lunch that she was a native of Hiroshima. I thought, “Oh My goodness.” I didn't want to ask. She sensed my expression, and she said, “I am a survivor.” I wanted to know, but I did not want to be intrusive. She answered my questions without my having to ask them. She volunteered just a bit of her story.

Keiko was eight years old. Her house was 2.4 kilometers away. She said she was at home in her front yard. The house stood between her and the city. The house shielded her from the flash. Her older brother was at the side of the house. He had run outside when he heard the engines. He loved airplanes. He was yelling, “It's a B-29, it's a B-29.” Then he saw the plane and he was excited. Moments later he saw a tiny speck, an object, fall from the plane. He was taking a physics class at school, so he carefully followed the arc of the object as it fell, and he figured the trajectory as the bomb stayed under the flight path of the plane.

The flash gave serious burns to his face. I asked about his eyes. Keiko said that because it was a sunny day her brother had his hands above his eyes to block out the glare of the sun. His hands protected his eyes. He also survived as did members of her family inside the house.

The house was on the road going out of the city. Keiko remembers so many hurt people walking from the city and passing by her house. Many were injured very badly and her family brought them into her house. She saw so many people die in her house that day and in the next days. Keiko also has stark memories of bodies, bodies and more bodies dead in a river that was not far from her house.

Keiko offered her opinion about the bombing. Maybe her ideas should receive some consideration and careful thought. She believes that the intent of the bomb that fell on her city was NOT to end the war. The American military command and its civilian leadership frantically rushed to drop the second bomb. They wanted that bomb to fall BEFORE the Japan could surrender. She points out that the first bomb was a uranium bomb, and it had been tested before. But the second bomb mechanism—it was a plutonium bomb—had never been tested, and the Americans wanted to see how it would work, so it was important that the first bomb NOT end the war. So much for the quest for knowledge—maybe another result of the Garden of Eden thing.

Over the years—now 59 years—Keiko has joined together with others in organized appeals to ban nuclear weapons, their testing, and their proliferation. She has given her testimony to many committees including ones at the United Nations. And she visited the Smithsonian museum with a Japanese delegation when the Enola Gay was put on public display.

She laughed nervously as she told about that day. She recalls that she walked in the Smithsonian Air and Space museum door and her eye caught just a glimpse of the wing of the B-29. She says she felt a terrible fear cover all over her, and she began crying.

An American friend came and held her in her arms, but she just kept crying and crying. She had never reacted that way during all the times she had presented her testimony and her experiences. A photographer and a television camera caught her image, but she was unaware of their presence. That evening she called her daughter in Japan to tell her of the events of the day, but her daughter told her, “I know where you were, it was all on international television.” Several guests at her hotel came up to her the next day. She had also appeared on the front page of the Washington Post.

SHE told ME, that she had felt ashamed. I felt rather small. Then I gave my speech and she interpreted. As I write this I am on the Shinkansen—the bullet train, bound for Nagasaki . I think I have a duty to go there.

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zhao li xin - 6/17/2004

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chris l pettit - 4/19/2004

Sorry buddy...I was not talking about the Belgian massacres...I was discussing current happenings still occurring. The Belgian number you give regarding Leopold is absolutely a good ballpark figure.


Derek Charles Catsam - 4/17/2004

Congo almost a million? In which manifestation? the estimates for the Belgian Congo under Leopold are more like ten million.

Grant W Jones - 4/17/2004

D'oh, That's _The Soul of War_ by Hanson. One other point, the "moral inflation" of war. When two great powers are at war, and one takes the conflict to "another level" it is damn hard to the other nation, if it means to win, not to reply in kind. There is the famous exchange between J.Davis and A.Lincoln when Davis threaten to kill or enslave black Union soldiers. Lincoln replied by threatening to shoot Confederate POWs. Thank God both men stepped back from the precipice.

Grant W Jones - 4/17/2004

Thanks Chris for the lengthy and thoughtful reply. First, I think simply hunkering down and letting the blockade "starve 'em out" may have worked. But I think you underestimate the human costs involved, both to the Japanese people and to those caught up in the fighting on the Asian mainland. If the blockade of Germany of 1914-1919 is any indication, mass starvation and death would have occurred. I don't think there is a way to seperate "military" from "civilian" imports in a war, soldiers eat too.

There are also the moral issues of fighting an enemy that refuses to surrender even when the situation is hopeless. The Battle of the Bismarck Sea illustrates the problems faced by the allies in this regard.

As for fire bombing cities in general, there is a good case to be made that this was a war crime. Although it can't be forgotten that it was the axis, both Germany and Japan, that started the slide into the abyss of Total War. There is a famous picture of W.S.Churchill on a boat on the Thames looking at what was left of the East End of his beloved London after the Luftwaffe was done bombing. It is the picture of a very angry man. And not a hot, raging anger, but the ice cold anger of rightuous indignation. A woman during the Blitz was pulled from the rubble moaning, "Give it 'em back." They did.

Victor Davis Hanson in _The Soul of Battle_ makes the point that Democracies when attacked, and fearing for their very existence, can be terrible in war. Both the Germans and Japanese brought a fearful retribution upon themselves. Nation's can, and do, act and react like individuals. The Islamists had better head the warning of history before it is too late.

If Truman is a war criminal, then so is F.D.R., Truman was carrying out his policies. Anyways, Truman was faced with a decision, I'm sure we are happy to never to have to make. Whatever he decided, large numbers of people were going to die. Truman's first responsibilty was to save American lives, then the lives of allies and lastly those of Japanese civilians. You seem to be saying that Truman should have held the lives of Japanese civilians in higher regard than the Japanese government itself. I my judgment, Truman chose the least evil of the alternatives open to him.

The Japanese war-lords were willing to sacrifice millions of their own people to maintain their power and save "face." Their are the one's who started the war in China, allied their nation with Hitler and waged Total, merciless war for over a decade. The guilt is theirs.

Richard Henry Morgan - 4/17/2004

Just to set the record straight, this is what Chris asserted:

Just for fun...or sobering value -
Hitler killed about 8 million?
Stalin around 10 million?
Rwanda almost a million?
China say 3 or 4 million?
Congo almost a million
US - add up thousands in Iraq, Panama, Bosnia, Guatemala, Ecuador, El Salvador, Brazil, Haiti, Liberia, Argentina, Chile, China, Cambodia (Vietnam War, not Pol Pot), Cuba, Phillippines, Iraq, Iran, Indonesia, Somalia, Sudan, Cambodia, Laos, add it to the 2 million in Vietnam...as well as several other instances (there is an ambiguity if you want to consider whether we should attribute those deaths caused by guys we put in and supported and oppressive regimes we keep in power...also economic snctions and such) - I have no idea what the figure would be but it even outstrips Stalin - it seems other nations and leaders have their moments, but the US is the only nation that spreads it out to everone over time.

So let's be clear about this. Chris' statistics for Stalin and China are complete fictions -- complete fictions that can't be obscured by hiding behind the defense that one can add up figures in different ways. Interestingly, it's the two communist regimes that get their figures most massaged downwards. More interesting still, there is a comparison made between direct killings by Stalin and China, and killings by anybody and everybody remotely associated with the US. Strange how Stalin and China don't get the same treatment. More and more of the slip is showing. But what I truly love is that little two-step in his previous post where, since his figures are entirely ficticious and his argument skewed, he falls back on the "isn't it silly to argue about body count?" argument. No, it's not. You said the US is the great terrorist nation of the era, and you cited fictions in support of that assertion.

chris l pettit - 4/17/2004

WHile I have read Downfall, and understand where the view points in it come from, I have to say that I do not think Truman was racist in the slightest and I did not mean to give off that perception with the comments on the cartoons and such. That comment was just to demonstrate the sometimes racist ideology in the US at the time, which has carried over into many scholarly writings and accounts. Truman, in my view, was vastly underinformed about the usage and ramifications of the atomic weapons. I do not think, as is evident from reading his diary, that he was trying to one up the Soviets. I think he believed that he was making a good decision. I am more concerned with his advisors and those in the government such as Stimson and others who did have a "lets get ahead mindset." From what I have read, they had an incredible amount of influence on the decision to use the bomb and basically "won" the argument with those who were against the useage. Truman was an honorable man and I think he honestly tried to make the best decision he could in a time of tremendous pressure, but it was not only his mind and perceptions that we must scrutinize.

As for the counterfactual...the reason why I am so uncomfortable with it is because it utilizes evidence that would not have been available to Truman and the others while making the decision. THis basically relegates the fact that it was the best decision (if it truly was) to the "great luck" bin of history. Many of the factors used to make the claim, such as the "peace movement" in Japan and whatnot, came out only after the conclusion of the war. This necessarily means they cannot be taken into consideration in speculating why the decision was made. That it may have turned out to be the right one, something I dispute, is to me an irrelevant topic in our current discussion and in the question of the victimization of the Japanese. We must remember that part of the victimization has to do with the justifications provided for the decision, not whether history shows it to be the right one...of which there will always be considerable debate. One can speculate whether the conditional surrender was truly legitimate and would have been carried out, or whether a blockade and use of comventional bombing methods would have killed as many as the atomic bomb, but the fact is that it was not even given the opportunity...something that I believe is one of the most important things to consider.

Downfall is a quality text and the case it makes is quite good...it definitely reaches to the gap where one is left to take what it offers and weigh it against the counterargument and choose within ones own thought processes whether to accept the argument or not. I happen not to, but respect those who do relying on evidence available at the time, not evidence that surfaced after the fact.

As for the statistics game...I would like to take a mea culpa for bringing it up at all because it gets us totally off topic and into the realm of "one can find statistics to support any argument," something Richard tends to illustrate on a weekly basis. The numbers I used were generalised off the cuff numbers, something I should have stated. As Adam and I spoke of, it all depends how you tally the numbers and whether you count indirect causes or simply direct killings or whatnot. Utilising those methods used by RIchard and the sources he cites, I can readily count the deaths caused by US client atates and despots we put in power, something I specifically stated I was not doing in my initial statements, hence the difference in statistics. How you tally does not matter and in reality, does the nuber of bodies actually matter once you get past a decent number anyway? What I was trying to illustrate...and can justify in many ways...is the US policy of using terror and oppression to serve its interests, as have many other states. I apologise for not choosing a more prudent method, however, I am sure there would be those misguided souls who whould argue with any method I chose. The fact that some other state commits "more" killings is not a justification for any of the states cited or their academics to use violence or support its use...it is all wrong and contrary to internaitonal law and human morality. The fact that we were (stupidly) worried about "communism," which turned out to be a 50 year "war" between two bad ideas that need to work together to actually find an equal and humanitarian reality, is no excuse for actions in Latin America or anywhere else. Violence and violation of human rights does not justify action by a nation state on its own...only way to truly ensure the "rule of law" is to do things within a non-prejudicial international system, which is impossible considering the US' attitude towards international law and its manipulation of the UN system...which is highly hypocritical given that the US was one of the main architects of the system.


Douglas K. Bissell - 4/16/2004

Who said that they were OK? I certainly didn't. But I will say that British, American, and Russian actions taken all together didn't equal what Japan did to China.
I do notice that you didn't actually respond to the points that I made.
You seem to be wearing a curious set of blinders when you look at Japanese actions in the 1930s and early 1940s. Surely a self-described "human rights law scholar" ought to be interested in the human rights on all sides, not simply on the Japanese side. That is, unless your employment involves looking only at one side. (I hope that I have put that delicately enough.)

Richard Henry Morgan - 4/16/2004


Chris' estimate for Stalin's killings is, well, nearly as poorly thought out as his estimate for China's. Stalin manged to kill 10 million in 1930-33 alone. I won't avail myself of sarcasm on this point.

Richard Henry Morgan - 4/16/2004

And yet, Chris' point survives as a point of law and deontological ethics. It is one thing to end up killing more civilians in the course of a traditional campaign, while targeting military targets and taking care to observe restrictions based on proportionality, etc., and on the other hand, dropping a bomb on a city with military targets but whose consequences will disproportionately fall on civilians. Consequentialist ethics might endorse the use of the bombs, but law and deontological ethics do not.

I ask, what would be your consequentialist reckoning if the two bombs had not done the trick? I think that poses the proper prospective view necessary to a moral assessment. Can you justify the bombs even by consequentialist means if they hadn't obtained their desired object? And what reason was there to believe they would? I think it was a very close thing, and that even with the two bombs, Japan was very close to still not surrendering. Would you have dropped a third, a fourth, etc.? And if it took a third or fourth, would you be able to justify it even on the thin grounds of a consequentialist ethic?

Charles V. Mutschler - 4/16/2004

Mr. Pettit,

If you haven't already done so, you might read _Downfall_ , by Frank, which pretty effectively undercuts the arguments that Truman's decision to use the atomic bombs were racist, or motivated primarily by a desire to cow the Soviets. The book also shows very convincingly (for me, at least), that the arguments that the Japanese were ready to quit, and that alternatives to using the bombs would have saved lives are not correct. In short, a full scale assault supported by conventional weapons would have killed more allied and Japanese than the bombs did. The use of a naval blockade and strategic bombig of the rail network would probably have starved more civilians than died in the atomic blasts. Conterfactuals are always dubious, but the evidence offered in _Downfall_ is quite convincing.

The people that charge Truman with racism always seem to overlook an important point. Truman had been an officer in World War I, and he had enough combat experience to be aware that saving allied lives was an important consideration. I think Alonzo Hamby summed it up better than anyone else in a book review in the JAH - It is unterly unthinkable that any American president in 1945 would have spared Japanese civilians at the expense of large numbers of US soldiers to avoid using the atomic bombs.

War is an ugly business. The sad reality is, the use of atomic weapons saved lives, and shortened the war.

One last reading suggestion, vis a vis your posts on the ICJ. Before arguing that the USA has killed more innocent victims than anyone else in the 20th Century, may I suggest you read _The Black Book of Communism_ and take a good look at their caluclations for the death toll of the Soviets, Chinese communists, etc, etc. I'm curious - how do you square your assertations for US death toll with those in _The Black Book of Communism_?

Thanks for reading.

Charles V. Mutschler

chris l pettit - 4/16/2004

First...Ben...I appreciate the advice and hope to take it and not be as accusatory, maybe just suggestive? ANyway...as my response to your post on Machiavelli illustrates, I think our philosophies and approaches to dealing with history may just differ a bit. THis by no means negates our ability to have a fruitful discussion and expand both our areas of scholarship. Thanks from someone who respects your scholarship and hopes to glean some of your knowledge through our discussions.

If I may play the role of Commander in Chief...

I should as a start say that there are bound to be generalities in this thinking out loud exercise. THis is not to exculpate me from criticism...feel free...it is just to state that I know the complexities of the situation and will try and keep this short...if somewhat generalised.

I suspect that we are speaking of the period after most of the Pacific theater when the Japanese navy had been reduced to a very minimal level in comparison to the US fleet.

I am actually an admirerer the Japanese Admiral who stated at the beginning of the war that if the Japanese did not win the war within the first 6 months they basically had no chance.

If we take as our starting point the days after the US had defeated (for the most part) a great portion of the Japanese navy, the Japanese domestic situation at that point was getting pretty bleak. There was a large lack of resources; food, oil, energy, whatnot. The air force was down to kamikaze attacks with anything that would fly...and very few competent pilots. The most problematic thing in my mind was the delusional attitude of those high in power...namely the emporer and his closest advisors. The US was able to continue its blockade and keep military supplies from reaching Japan. THe Japanese had no long range missles or anything (no danger of V-2's like in Germany) that could reach the US. So where is the need to invode Japan...other than to "end" the war. Conventional bombing of the military strongholds of the country would be justified...I would be very uncomfortable with the lack of accuracy of conventional weapons, but they are a result of the times and we cannot apply todays standards to back then (not that laser guided weapons are any better, as we have seen in Iraq with tens of thousands killed). Firebombing of Tokyo was not necessary. Not that this is true by any stretch, but could it be possible that the aggressive actions of the US, such as the fire bombings and disregard for Japanese civilians, may have strengthened their resolve? The reason I pose this query is that we must take the Japanese culture into consideration when answering the question posed. The sense of honor and loyalty is very ingrained in Japanese heritage (much like it is in Arabic heritage, to point that out). If there was a way that the US could have negotiated an end to the war which allowed the US to take control of rebuilding Japan as it did without the large loss of life that was the firebombing and the nukes, it was never seriously considered...especially in context of the Japanese society. Allowing the Japanese government to save face and preserve some of their perceived "honor" would have been key to such an arrangement. By the way...we still have troops in Japan and all over the island chains that surround her, so it is not as if the US has truly "left" per se.

I know that there are apologists that seek to make the point that dropping the bombs was necessary to "save lives" (using post war info of course that would not have been known to the people making the decision at the time, therefore obliterating their logic), but there is ample evidence from Leo Szilard and others, as well as in the Franck memo, to demonstrate that there was a concerted effort made by those who wanted to demonstrate US military might to have the bomb used. President Truman's understanding of the bomb was also severely questionable because of several statement made in his diary and in official reports. As Truman, do i have to stay within his misunderstandings, or can I assume that I understand a bit better than he (as he should have been required to have done before even considering such a momentous decision)? I think I will be a bit more understanding than he, as would be my responsibility as President to be fully informed about a decision that costs so many lives. At the very least, i think that there was a pretty decent amount of eagerness to show the USSR that we had such a weapon and to demonstrate our power, if not a significant amount of influence from that thought.

At Potsdam, Russian archives have shown that Stalin had received conditional communications that the Japanese would consider a conditional surrender that would allow the emperor to remain as a ceremonial figurehead. The Russians are in the war, remember and now Japan has enemies on both sides of her. While there are elements in the Japanese military that may have been militant and "insane" (there definitely were in our military as well...MacArthur anyone?), I am not sure if one can underestimate the weight of the proclimations of the emporer and their effect on the Japanese people.

If I were Truman I would heed Henry Stimson when he said, "I am inclined to think that there is enough such chance to make it well worthwhile our giving them a warning of what is to come and a definite opportunity to capitulate. We have the following enormously favorable factors on our side, factors much weightier that those we had against Germany: Japan has no allies; Her navy is nearly destroyed and she is vulnerable to a surface and underwater blockade which can deprive her of sufficient food and supplies for her population; She is terribly vulnerable to our concentrated air attack upon her crowded cities, industrial and food resources; She has against her not only Anglo-American forces but the rising forces of China and the ominous threat of Russia." This shows the position Japan was in...I still disagree with the attacks on the "crowded cities" but we could have hit her military installations with ease. THis statement shows the prejudice and inhuman attributes assigned to the Japanes at the time. By the way...have you seen any WWII era cartoons? Talk about racist...

How about Eisenhower: "During his (Secretary of War Henry Stimson's) recitation of the relative facts, I had been conscious of a feeling of depression and so I voiced to him my grave misgivings: first, on the basis of my belief that Japan was already defeated and that dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary, and secondly, because I thought that our country should avoid shocking the world opinion by the use of a weapon whose employment was, I thought, no longer mandatory as a measure to save American lives. It was my belief that Japan was, at that very moment, seeking some way to surrender with a minimum loss of "face." The secretary was deeply perturbed by my attitude." I am interested that this quote shows the tension between the military and the civilian leaders (familiar?). It increases for me the likelihood of the action having more to do with US global positioning in the post war world than with ending the war...a scary thought.

Another interesting consideration: National Security Advisor, James Byrnes advised Truman that a combat display of the weapon might be used to bully Russia into submission, and the the bomb "might well put us in a position to dictate our own terms at the end of the war." THis also for me signifies American power interests. For all those who might ask if I would be "afraid" of the Soviets taking so much power: if we are supposed to be a humanitarian nation and this was about saving lives, why would this play any part in the reasoning? I would also not be idiotic enough to be drawn into the Cold War, an abject waste of resources and sacrifice of the livelihood of way too many individuals...but I stray from the topic.

I guess I should end this by saying: Would this have worked? Who knows...the Japanese might not have given up and the conditional surrender possibilities might not have worked out. We would not have had to invade or firebomb to find this out. The point is that we did not even try or give them a chance to surrender in amanner that let them keep their honor and in a way that respected their culture. It was, as FDR and the boys worked out amongst themselves "total surrender or bust." this is the largest mistake that was made. While I personally can never condone the dropping of either weapons, I abhor the thought that somewhere in our governments psyche, the significane of the atomic bomb as a demonstration of our military might played at least a decent sized role, in the face of much dissent from some of the most brilliant minds on Earth. Oh...and one other thing...for all those who want to use the "peace movements statements" remember this was an exercise in what I would have done had I been Truman...not what i would do with post war information where there is an ample amount of propaganda on both sides supporting both positions. Truman had no knowledge of these supposed "problems." he did have the info and quotes I list.

Those who would be apologists for the atomic bombs are simply mistaken and use what Bush would call "revisionist history" to support their positions. From a human rights standpoint the dropping of the boms is unconscionable, and there is ample evidence to suggest that it would not have been necessary.

for those who want an interesting look at things...this is the website...a pretty good prof at UC-Boulder


For Mr. Brody's take on things...he seems to be a disciple of NYT's Mr. Kristof...and his reliability is greatly in question. Here is why...compare the above with the following:



Steve Brody - 4/16/2004

Ben, I must respectfully disagree with you. Chris doesn’t “shout the human rights line”. Chris shouts the “Japanese human rights line”.

Chris has demonstrated contempt for the “human rights” of the Chinese by his minimization of the utter horror that Japan visited on China in the 30’s and 40’s.

Steve Brody - 4/16/2004

Chris, what I have contempt for is your puerile tactic of labeling that with which you disagree as “racist”. These are the actions of someone who is uncomfortable arguing with facts or logic. Strange for someone who claims to be a “scholar”.
The sad fact, Chris, is that you have used invective rather than fact and vitriol rather than logic. Is that something you learned down at the IALANA?

I have laid out a few of my reasons for believing that the A-bombs were a sad and tragic necessity. What you have responded with are baseless charges of racism, inhumanity, bias and prejudice. All without ever specifying how my remarks are any of these things.
And without ever presenting any fact or logic that refutes anything I have posted.

That is why I am unimpressed by the laundry list of “qualifications” you presented to support your diatribe. If you have some special expertise in these matters, as you’ve claimed, you’ve failed to demonstrate it in any convincing fashion. Any stuffed shirt can cry, “ I’m a scholar.” If what you have posted are the musings of a scholar, then I weep for the future of scholarship.

Richard Henry Morgan - 4/15/2004

My dispute is less with Keiko, than with the entire culture of victimhood in Japan that centers on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. My dispute is with the notion that having been the victims of the bombs has conferred a special moral wisdom upon the Japanese, a moral ascendancy over the bombers, and a special moral wisdom that somehow is not extended to the Chinese by their similar numbers of victims of the Rape of Nanking, or Filipinos from the Rape of Manila. I would bet, if we could talk to those victims, the great majority would prefer instant incineration to rape and death by bayonet practice -- but that's just my guess.

This culture of victimhood has been, sadly to say, a part of deliberate Japanese policy. Years ago I read, at Teachers College Columbia University, the standard Japanese government-approved history text. It had three pages on WWII, two of which were devoted to a picture of the Hiroshima bomb explosion.

Grant W Jones - 4/15/2004

...you provide more heat than light. What would you have done in Truman's place to end the war as quickly as possible with the least bloodshed?

Your attacks on Truman, and by extension America, are like the carping Lincoln endured regarding McClellan. After being badgered by his Cabinet to fire McClellan, Lincoln retorted, "its all very well for you, you can have anyone. I must have someone."

Its all very well for you to attack Truman, you can have any policy, he had to have a specific way of ending the war given the insanity of Japanese leadership. So, what is you alternative policy recommendation, general?

Ben H. Severance - 4/15/2004


While I disagree with most of your views, including your present critique of the A-Bombs over Japan, I have to tip my hat to your persistent and unflappable efforts to make yourself heard. As Steve and Richard have stated, however, you might want to temper your accusatory tone. Advocating a strong hand in world affairs does not mean one is inhumane. Measured force can often reduce the strife and bloodshed you decry. And the A-Bomb is an example of how such force can be very effective. Whether the U.S. used nukes, as it did, or simply pulverized Japan with fire bombs and a strangling naval blockade, this country was justified in its use of force--remember Pearl Harbor? And when you denounce the U.S. as a "monster," keep in mind that Americans rebuilt Japan and democratized it. I doubt Imperial Japan would have done the same had it prevailed in WWII.

Anyway, keep shouting the human rights line. I may think you are misguided at times, sanctimonious at others, but it's important to have a voice insisting that the human element be respected, even if we don't always do so.

Ben H. Severance - 4/15/2004


I agree with you that the assessment of a child who witnessed the obliteration of her home, family, and friends in shocking fashion is unquestionably biased and based on emotion. But what would you expect? My uncle, a marine veteran of Pelilieu, married a Japanese girl after the war. She is to this day a quiet, simple woman with little interest in military history. In the autumn of 1945, my future Japanese aunt was a conscripted teenager in the Honshu Civil Defense; she was trained to hide in a pit with a pole grenade and attack the first U.S. armored vehicle that came near her--quite a statement about Japan's willingness to wage a fight to the finish. After the war, though she conceded the legitimacy of the Hiroshima bombing, she always maintained that the Nagasaki bombing was unjustified. My point in relating this story is that my aunt and Keiko have something in common. Both were part of a total war when they were very young, both lacked extensive educations as to why their country was fighting (my aunt has no knowledge of Nanking, and denies that her people could have done something like that), and both respond to the the A-Bomb emotionally, as is to be expected. I don't think Keiko's tears are a case of self-pity, but rather a visceral response to something she will never come to grips with.

chris l pettit - 4/15/2004

Your strange hatred and contempt either for me or the Japanese who were victims of US atrocities in WWII or your obscene nationalism...i can't even figure it out...simply binds you to the fact that you are using propaganda and historical instances that happen to meet your criteria and fit your argument. I can accept this..and you are entitled to the biased view.

You are not impressed with my credentials? Cool...letters after names and different connections mean nothing in this world and I am glad you recognise that. I was just intimating that I do have a scholarly basis for stating what I did. Incidentally, you having 8 Phd's (if you did so) does not make up for the fact that your statements on the issure are inherently prejudicial and do not have any semblence of morality and humanity related to all the parties involved in the historical occurrence. Were they the worst ones made? No...but they should have been more carefully stated as they portray your inherent bias. Why you get all worked up is a mystery to me...


chris l pettit - 4/15/2004

I love how the Open Door Policy actions of the Japanese were "closing the door" while somehow the British, American and Russian raping of China is somehow ok...

Steve Brody - 4/15/2004

Chris, you seem to be much more impressed with your “qualifications”, as you put it, than I am.

So you’re a member of the International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms and happen to work for a former judge of the ICJ most famous for his anti-nuclear weapons stance and you’re buddies with the mayors of both Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and have done extensive research on the history of the bombings and the justifications for them. And wonder of wonders, you also find time to be “a human rights law scholar”, too.

And you somehow think that all these “qualifications” entitles you to accuse people of “inherent racism”, as if calling yourself a “human rights scholar” absolves you the need to present evidence for your opinions.

What does impress me, Chris, is the ability to marshal facts, evidence and logic to make your case. In that department, you haven’t shown me much.

Now then, let me summarize my arguments for you, Chris, since you apparently didn’t take the time to read them or did not understand them.

There is scant evidence that the Japanese intended to surrender prior to the second bomb being used.

We took comparatively few Japanese prisoners during WWII. Why? Because despite facing certain defeat and annihilation, the Japanese almost always chose death rather than surrender.

The decision to use the A- bomb on Japan was made with the recent experience of the Okinawa and Saipan campaigns, where many civilians chose suicide rather than surrender. More people were killed during the Okinawa campaign alone than were killed by BOTH A-bombs. Does any serious person really doubt that many times that many would have died invading the home islands?

Less than two weeks before the A-bombs were dropped the Allies issued the Potsdam Declaration, warning the Japanese of total annihilation if they didn’t surrender. The Japanese dismissed the warning as unworthy of response.

Major wartime peace advocates have embraced the bombing as necessary to convince the Emperor that the militarists were wrong and to side with the peace advocates. As I noted, 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”. In addition, 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."

What I proffered was that all this made it unlikely that the Japanese were on the verge of surrender, as “Keiko” believes, after the first A-bomb was dropped.

And how did you respond to my comment?

You called it “inherently racist”. How? Where?

You suggested that I didn’t respect “Keiko’s” thoughts. Nonsense. I respectfully believe that she is just plain wrong.

You implied that I somehow believed that she didn’t “deserve to be heard”. What are you talking about? I never suggested that she didn’t deserve to be heard.

When I protested that you didn’t know me well enough to accuse me of racism (inherent or otherwise), you pompously listed your “qualifications” that gave you “the right” to label my comments racist, as though calling yourself a “human rights scholar” gave you some special insight which obviated the need for evidence.

You then sanctimoniously stated that if my wife was Japanese – American, that I should “know better than to denigrate those who truly were victims and make such generalities “and that somehow my words had denied someone their “inalienable human rights” (???) and “denied them their legitimate grievance”. Are you serious? Does respectful disagreement now constitute a denial of “human rights” and “legitimate grievance”?

Despite the fact that you claim special expertise in this subject, Chris, you ignored my request to refute my comments with evidence or logic. This is probably just as well. From my vantage point, you’re expertise appears to be a mile wide and an inch deep.

Not good enough, Chris. Not nearly good enough. Especially for someone who bills himself as a “scholar”

Donald Newton Langenberg - 4/14/2004

In the interest of historical accuracy, it should be noted that William Thompson's friend Keiko had the two 1945 nuclear weapons exactly reversed. The Hiroshima bomb (Little Boy) was a "gun" bomb using uranium enriched in the fissile U-235 isotope. Because this material was then difficult to produce and in short supply, and because the detonation mechanism was relatively straightforward (It amounted to firing a howitzer with a uranium shell into a uranium target at the end of the barrel.), it was decided that this bomb could confidently be used without testing. The Nagasaki bomb (Fat Man) was an implosion bomb, in which a plutonium sphere is compressed by converging shock waves from a surrounding shell of conventional explosives. This was a more uncertain technology, so that it was tested once before military use, at Alamogordo, New Mexico, in July, 1945.

Richard Henry Morgan - 4/14/2004

Keiko can't be expected to know about the Rape of Nanking because, in government-controlled textbooks of her era in Japan, the Rape of Nanking never happened. As late as 10 years ago Japanese school history textbooks were still a disgrace (see below).

I don't propose to carry guilt for the bombs, but should it be visited on me, I don't see any reason why Keiko can't carry guilt for the atrocities of the Japanese army. I believe that dropping the bombs were a crime of war.

I don't believe that there is sufficient evidence to posit an imminent Japanese surrender, absent the second bomb. Nevertheless, I take seriously the idea put forward by even such a Marxist as PMS Blackett, that the second bomb had the object of preventing the Soviets from moving in -- in my view, a case of over determination, rather than either/or.

That said, Japan is a thoroughly racist society, though even that is declining (thankfully). I suggest you poll African-Americans on how they are treated in Japan. I think you would find it quite enlightening.

Here's the lowdown on Japanese textbooks:

The present system of screening and approving textbooks dates to pre-war Japan: "Struggles over the national narrative existed . . . before and even during World War II, when official narratives such as the Imperial Rescript on Education and other 'fine militarist stories' played a crucial role in Japanese identity formation."(4) In the early months of the postwar period, Japanese bureaucrats changed existing textbook policy by blotting out passages that might offend the American occupiers. By 1946 the Supreme Command for the Allied Powers (SCAP), in an effort to ensure that textbooks did not encourage emperor-worship and militarism, imposed on the nation a system of government "certification" of schoolbooks. That system continued after the Americans left.

In Japan, each public and private school selects one history textbook from a list of seven or eight authorized by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (Monbukagakusho) every four years. This screening process then lasts one full year. In the United States (where adoption takes place on no set schedule at the state or local level), for all the talk of alternative means of instruction, the conventional textbook remains the core and often the sole teaching tool in most middle and high school classrooms. Japanese textbook companies submit manuscripts to the Ministry of Education, whose appointed committees examine them according to prescribed criteria. The Ministry offers the textbook companies opportunities to revise their drafts, and copies of the Ministry-approved manuscripts are then available for consideration by the local districts.

In 1965 Ienaga Saburo, a prominent historian, filed the first of his three lawsuits against the Ministry of Education, charging that the process of textbook approval was unconstitutional and illegal. The Ministry had rejected Ienaga's history textbook because it contained "too many illustrations of the 'dark side' of the war, such as an air raid, a city left in ruins by the atomic bomb, and disabled veterans."(5) His second suit two years later also involved the issue of constitutionality and, in addition, focused on points related to Ienaga's characterization of Japan's foundation myths and a description of the 1941 Japan-USSR neutrality pact.

In 1982 the screening process in Japan became a diplomatic issue when the media of Japan and neighboring countries gave extensive coverage to changes required by the Ministry of Education. The Ministry had ordered Ienaga to remove critical language in his history textbook, insisting that he write of the Japanese army's "advance into" China instead of its "aggression in" China, of "uprising among the Korean people" instead of the "March First Independence Movement." Pressure applied by China and Korea succeeded in getting the Ministry to back down and resulted in the Ministry's adding a new authorization criterion: that textbooks must show understanding and international harmony in their treatment of modern and contemporary historical events involving neighboring Asian countries.(6)

Ienaga's lawsuits lasted thirty years. Although in 1997—in response to Ienaga's third lawsuit instituted in 1986—the Supreme Court of Japan unanimously upheld the Ministry's right to continue screening textbooks, Ienaga and his fellow critics enjoyed a partial victory. The court requested "that the Government refrain from intervening in educational content as much as possible."(7)

By the time of the final ruling, however, Ienaga and the tens of thousands of Japanese who joined him in his battle against the authorization process had been victorious in fact if not in law. The most widely used Japanese textbooks in the mid- and late-1990s contained references to the Nanjing Massacre, anti-Japanese resistance movements in Korea, forced suicide in Okinawa, comfort women, and Unit 731 (responsible for conducting medical experiments on prisoners of war)—all issues raised in Ienaga's suits.

The Current Situation

A conservative (many would argue ultra-conservative) movement toward reform in the Japanese history curriculum was initiated in the early 1990s by Fujioka Nobukatsu and his Liberal View of History Study Group. Fujioka, a professor of education at Tokyo University, set out to "correct history" by emphasizing a "positive view" of Japan's past and by removing from textbooks any reference to matters associated with what he calls "dark history," issues such as the comfort women, that might make Japanese schoolchildren uncomfortable when they read about the Pacific War.

By early 2000 Fujioka and his group had joined with others to form the Japanese Society for History Textbook Reform, now headed by Nishio Kanji. It is the Society's textbook, The New History Textbook (one of eight junior high school history textbooks authorized by the Ministry of Education in April 2001), that has caused such debate in Japan over the past year. Nishio summarized the views of the Society in an article in the August 2001 Japan Echo, a bimonthly journal of opinion on a wide range of topics of current interest within Japan. The article maintained that rather than asserting the Society members' personal views of history the textbook aims to restore common sense to the teaching of the subject. Nishio insisted that "history stop being treated like a court in which the figures and actions of the past are called to judgment."(8)

Widespread protests against the textbook erupted much earlier in Japan, China, and North and South Korea. By December 2000, reacting to a draft textbook circulated by the Society and shown on national television, a long list of Japanese historians and history educators expressed misgivings about the content of The New History Textbook and its rendering of Japan's past. Their complaints centered around the text's presentation of Japan's foundation myths as historical fact and its characterization of wars launched by modern Japan as wars to liberate Asia.

The intellectuals' appeal to people inside and outside Japan appeared on the internet prior to authorization of the textbook by the Ministry. Following authorization, their voices were joined by an international group of scholars. This "International Scholars' Appeal Concerning the 2002-Edition Japanese History Textbooks" aimed to "ensure that textbooks are consistent with values of peace, justice and truth." It declared The New History Textbook "unfit as a teaching tool because it negates both the truth about Japan's record in colonialism and war and the values that will contribute to a just and peaceful Pacific and World community." (For more information on the scholars' claim, visit their Web site [9].)

Reactions in China and Korea took various forms. China Radio International announced that the Chinese government and people were "strongly indignant about and dissatisfied with the new Japanese history textbook for the year 2002 compiled by right-wing Japanese scholars." Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhu Banzao warned that the Chinese people would not accept the interpretation of wartime events put forth by the new textbook.(10) An article in the August 25, 2001 issue of Korea Now, a biweekly magazine published in English, reported that as Seoul prepared to celebrate its Liberation Day (from the Japanese) on August 15, angry Koreans continued to stage anti-Japan protests ignited by the new Japanese "textbooks that allegedly gloss over atrocities by Japanese soldiers during World War II."(11)

Under the Japanese system, local school authorities determine whether the new textbook is to be used in district classrooms. On August 15—the deadline for school districts to make their selections—Associated Press writer Mari Yamaguchi reported in The Japan Times that the new textbook had been shunned, that nearly all of Japan's school districts had rejected it. She quoted a spokesman for the civic group Children and Textbooks Japan Network 21 as saying, "We have gained nationwide support to say 'no' to the textbook. . . . it's the conscience of the Japanese public."(12) According to a Kyodo News Service survey released August 16, not a single municipal government run or state run junior high school in the country adopted The New History Textbook.(13)

Douglas K. Bissell - 4/14/2004

Considering Chris's "Japan's actions in China, while negative, were connected to the Open Door policy of the US and UK...."

This one really takes the cake. "While negative" is quite a way of describing Japan's taking Manchuria in 1932-3 and invading the rest of China in 1937. A terrific euphemism! Millions - perhaps more than 10 million - Chinese casualties summed up by "while negative."

Accepting the pre-war Japanese view that the Open Door was a justification for Japanese actions is pretty sad too. Under the Open Door, all countries were supposed to have equal economic access to China, and China's territorial integrity was guaranteed. What the Japanese were doing was closing the Open Door to other countries as they took more and more of China's territory. And they were signatory to the Nine-Power Treaty of 1922 or 1923 that guaranteed the Open Door, incidentally.

There are some good arguments on both sides of the atomic bomb debate, although on balance I believe that the decision to drop them was correct. But surely you don't need to become an apologist for Japanese militarism in the 1930s in order to support your position.

william norman thompson - 4/14/2004

Re comments from Mr Cox and Morgan--you are right, I was wrong, regarding the nature of each bomb. I offer this apology for my error. Keiko did not offer her remarks for publication, but I used them, and I bear responsibility for the inaccurate reference of Uranium and plutonium for the two bombs. I still believe however, that she offers an opinion that deserves consideration--why did we rush to drop the second bomb, was it necessary. The truth is illusive, but on this matter it is a truth that we will never know, because another scenario was not followed. I do agree with another comment--not to take anything away from my apology--that an eight year old girl--now 67--considering the overwhelming personal grief she encountered--should be allowed tears, and should be allowed an anti-bomb opinion without having to defend actions taken by other Japanese people during the war. To visit that guilt upon her and to suggest that she personally bears a guilt somehow takes away from her feelings--which I not she expressed--is very sad. I would add that in my visits to Hiroshima (two times) and Nagasaki I have never been made to feel that I am bad because I am an American, nor have I ever seem or heard Americans criticised. One case made me feel uneasy. An older man (my age) on a trolley in Nagasaki just sort of stared at me. I was unconfortable, but then the little boy (maybe grandson) beside him wore a New York Yankee's hat. I wondered if he was mad at me because we took Matsui away from them. Nonetheless, in stark contrast to Japanese lack of expressed antimosity, every time I raise anything about this issue of the bomb, I get responses that suggest that Americans still have many deep personal resentments--and perhaps even hatreds--against all Japanese people, and that too is sad.

Richard Henry Morgan - 4/14/2004

" ... the people who should have rights and matter are pro-Chavez."

Think about that statement, Chris. Your slip is showing.

chris l pettit - 4/14/2004

I acknowledge that many individuals use "victim" arguments to serve their own selfish purposes...but this does nothing

Steve...if your family has such a history, then you should know better than to denigrate those who truly were victims and make such generalities as you have. I do not say the inherent racism is intentional...hence the word inherent. It is simply very general and sweeping statements that denigrate the legitimate rights and views of other victims. If you want to know my qualifications, please just ask. I am a member of the International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms and happen to work for a former judge of the ICJ most famous for his anti-nuclear weapons stance. I am quite friendly with the mayors of both hiroshima and Nagasaki, and have done extensive research on the history of the bombings and the justifications for them. I am also a human rights law scholar, which is where I get off and do have a right to comment on the nationalistic fervor in the comments posted. my standards are pretty easy...look at the inalienable human rights in every culture and religion and see if your words violate them, which in denying them their legitimate grievance they do. Yours was not the worst of them in any sense, but you still dsplay no compassion or offer no explanation of the Japanese culture and how it played a role in surrender (the sense of honor and the effect that surrender had on the emperor's "connection to the gods" and supposed infallibility...to list one of numerous examples).

Another thing...we can't sit here and take points in history as if they are static because they are not...they must be seen as a continuous stream of history where everything is a result of and cause of something else. Pearl Harbor was not a vicious surprise attack by the Japanese in the sense that if you look farther back the US government was well aware that the Japanese we being put in the position of basically haing their economy crash and people starve, or attack the US and try to beat the embargo. Japan's actions in China, while negative, were connected to the Open Door policy of the US and UK and the desperate race and competition to seize the assets of "backwards" China. To deny such historical associations is silly and only serves to promote nationalistic or prejudiced points, sometimes social, sometimes political.

Steve i do not mean to get into a contest over who knows more...i simply listed my qualifications so there is no doubt about the level of my "ignorance."

If I was harsh in pointing out the problems with what was posted I apologise, but please take more care in what you say. Richard...i understand totally where you are coming from in your response to my post, and expect that our conversation about my nuclear article would tell you how I feel about either nuclear weapon, 0 is the only acceptable number...count me in Einstein's group : ) The casualty argument is tricky because of the inherent madness of the whole situation..while I accept the statistics and some historical reports may be supportive of the position, i have seen enough counterexamples to not take a hard position on the matter. Speculation and what ifs simply tend to corrupt what actually happened and poison the discussion somewhat in my experience. if that is the only case that can be made for the bombs, so be it, but I find it to be rather questionable myself.

Lastly...we are talking about that one woman, one victim, not the peace advocates looking to take advantage...not the single source Steve cites...she was an unattached victim of the blast...let her have her say.

I wont even touch the Allende stuff...although i have a close friend who is an attorney in Chile that would disagree with both of you...but side with Allende before Pinochet any day. Richard I would check Allende's popularity if I were you and define their interests as opposed to those who supported overthrowing him...might remind you of Venezuela today...the people who should have rights and matter are pro-Chavez.

Oh Steve...long is not necessarily incoherent...using facts and legal terms to illustrate the fallacies and mistakes in your positions is not really incoherent, no matter how long it takes.


Steve Brody - 4/13/2004

Chris, you throw charges of inhumanity and racism around pretty freely. You apparently employ a pretty low standard of evidence for making these charges. Particularly since you don’t know anything about me.

You don’t know whether or not my wife is a Sansei Japanese-American and that therefore my two sons might be half-Japanese. You don’t know whether my in-laws were interned during WWII. You don’t know whether or not some of my in-laws fought with the all-Nisei 442 RCT. Not knowing anything about me, however, didn’t prevent you from accusing me of anti-Japanese racism.

I can’t say I’m surprised, though, Chris. What I’ve noticed about your posts is that you rarely allow your ignorance of an issue to keep you from forming an opinion and then making long, sometimes interminably long, comments about it. You normally lard these posts with personal diatribes and direct terms like “incoherent babbling” at anyone who dares to look at an issue differently than you. The truth is, Chris, more often than not, you’re the one doing the incoherent babbling.

All that aside, Chris, I believe the use of the atomic bombs, both of them, was a sad and tragic necessity which killed far fewer Japanese than would any of the likely alternatives. I understand you feel differently. Do you have any reasons for believing that there was some alternative that would have cost fewer Japanese lives? If so, why don’t you post them? And Chris, try to be civil.

Richard Henry Morgan - 4/13/2004

The only Mexicans who weren't Native Americans were themselves colonialists. By the way, Allende was not democratically elected, but got a plurality of votes from the Chilean Congress after promising to respect the constitution -- a promise he promptly ignored, as he ruled by decree. Most people believe he shot himself, though I don't really care if the dictator was shot by others.

As for Sandino, he opposed elections, took up arms, and then got capped by Somoza. Gee, another "democrat" bites the dust. I think I'm going to cry.

Kenneth T. Tellis - 4/13/2004

If we are going into the issue of nationalism and hatred, let us go all the way. Was it not neocolonialist greed that made the US spread itself across the lands that was not American, but Native Indian and Mexican? And did not this form of expansionism kill and murder both Native Americans and Mexicans? Japan's expansion in South East Asia is in no way comparable to US expansion in the North American continent. As for cruelty, one has only to see the way the US operated in Latin America. Remember Augusto Sandano, Salvador Allende and many other Latin American leaders who were assassinated by US agents, because they would not tow the line. Somehow or other American refuse to see their own sins, but are eager to pointy out the sins of others.

Seven years ago, I met Sergeant John Glabreathe of the US special forces who had been on the run from US military authorities. I spent three days interviewing him and taking notes, and his story was unbelieveable.

He was stationed at a secret US base in the jungles of Suriname, South American. The main purpose of this base was the transshipment of drugs for sale to other points in South America by the C.I.A. But its secondary purpose was to get money from the sale of drugs to finance the Contras in fighting the so-called communist threat to Latin America. While the US Senate hearings were going on in Washington, DC, and order came for all traces of the base had to be removed. One evening, his son asked him to go fishing with him and they left at 18:00 hrs. They continued to fish till late in the evening, and then headed back. A little way off from the base they heard gunfire. As they reached the edge of the jungle near the base they saw members of the US special forces firing at the people who lived on the base. John Galbreathe stayed in the shadows and watched the murder of his wife and two daughter all Americans. Most of the people on the base were the families of US soldiers in the drug operation and had to be killed. John stayed with his son in the jungle all night and watch the US special forces completely clear the area of the camp, as if nothing had ever existed there before.

Finally Sgt. John Galbreathe managed to cross into Bazil, where he got help from a Brazilian Catholic priest, who managed to get get money and spirit him out of the country to Canada. John found the long arm of the US government could even reach into Canada and kill him. As John Galbreathe told me he is on the move every few days, and cannot tell me of his whereabouts. Do not talk about the Japanese deserving the Atom Bomb, perhaps it time that someone dropped one on the US.
as aO

Richard Henry Morgan - 4/13/2004

My god, you're right. Apparently being bombed by a plutonium bomb doesn't, under experimental conditions, improve the historical accuracy of the test subject. The Trinity test was plutonium, the Nagasaki bomb U-235.

Tom L Cox - 4/13/2004

Another small problem the bomb that was tested in New Mexico was a plutonium bomb. The uranium bomb that was dropped first had not been tested. The second bomb, plutonium, had been tested.

Richard Henry Morgan - 4/13/2004

Just wondering, Chris, why is one bomb merely horrific, but two bombs unconscionable? Because we dropped two? Does that make it the breaking point? What is left in the vocabulary for three bombs? BTW, I agree that atrocities were committed by both sides, and that the Japanese got victors' justice -- the only difference being that I'm not all that upset about it. There's justice, and there's rough justice, and when total war comes about (in this case, Japan gets pride of parenthood) it doesn't stir the moral senses to, after committing the atrocities that Japan did, claim the mantle of victimhood.

chris l pettit - 4/13/2004

Wow...the abject inhumanity of the comments is breathtaking...as is the inherent racism.

how wonderful that we can call to honor those who we think should be remembered without respecting the thoughts of those who were actually in the country and their thoughts...this must be the American tolerance I hear so much about

This woman deserves to be heard as much as any POW, and there are quality arguments that both sides of the debate use as propaganda to suit their purposes. The fact remains that dropping an atomic weapon on a human population one was horrific, twice was unconscionable...period. All spouting about anything else amounts to incoherent babbling, justification of illegalities, and a basic denial of humanity and morality in general. One can say the same about POW camps, fire bombing, kamikaze attacks and many other aspects of the war.

Japan was guilty of atrocities, as was the US...as usual, in the end, might makes right and the sovereign gets to choose what was wrong and what was acceptable...truly a just and moral position...this is why positivism should die an awful screaming death and why the US is the monster it has become today.

Steve Brody - 4/13/2004

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. More people died during the Okinawan campaign alone than were killed by BOTH atomic bombs.

Bill, there is scant evidence that the Japanese intended to surrender before the second atomic bomb was dropped. I argue that it took something as shocking as both bombs to change the Japanese paradigm to make surrender thinkable.

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, 9 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.

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. 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”.

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.

Grant W Jones - 4/12/2004

My great-uncle Jim was stationed on Corrigador in 1941. Therefore he got to be a guest of the Emperor for three and a half years. Perhaps Thompson can interview some Allied POWs for his next article. The POWs may have a different take on the A-bomb, my uncle did.

Richard Henry Morgan - 4/12/2004

"Keiko offered her opinion about the bombing. Maybe her ideas should receive some consideration and careful thought. She believes that the intent of the bomb that fell on her city was NOT to end the war. The American military command and its civilian leadership frantically rushed to drop the second bomb. They wanted that bomb to fall BEFORE the Japan could surrender. She points out that the first bomb was a uranium bomb, and it had been tested before. But the second bomb mechanism—it was a plutonium bomb—had never been tested, and the Americans wanted to see how it would work, so it was important that the first bomb NOT end the war. So much for the quest for knowledge—maybe another result of the Garden of Eden thing."

Complete and utter nonsense. There is not one iota of evidence that the Japanese command was spurred to surrender by the first bomb. The second did the trick and accomplished it only by convincing the Japanese of what was not true -- that we had an effectively endless supply. BTW, do you feel a duty to bear witness to the exhibits of the Rape of Nanking and the Rape of Manila? Does Keiko exhibit any knowledge of these? Just wondering.