by Peter Kuzinick and Edu Montesanti, Global Research:
It is interesting to me that when I speak to people from outside the United States, most think the atomic bombings were unnecessary and unjustifiable, but most Americans still believe that the atomic bombs were actually humane acts because they saved the lives of not only hundreds of thousands of Americans who would have died in an invasion but of millions of Japanese.
That is a comforting illusion that is deeply held by many Americans, especially older ones. It is one of the fundamental myths emanating from World War II. It was deliberately propagated by President Truman, Secretary of War Henry Stimson, and many others who also spread the erroneous information that the atomic bombs forced Japanese surrender. Truman claimed in his memoirs that the atomic bombs saved a half million American lives.
President George H.W. Bush later raised that number to “millions.” The reality is that the atomic bombings neither saved American lives nor did they contribute significantly to the Japanese decision to surrender. They may have actually delayed the end of the war and cost American lives. They certainly cost hundreds of thousands of Japanese lives and injured many more.
As the January 1946 report by the U.S. War Department made clear, there was very little discussion of the atomic bombings by Japanese officials leading up to their decision to surrender. This has recently been acknowledged somewhat stunningly by the official National Museum of the U.S. Navy in Washington, DC, which states, “The vast destruction wreaked by the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the loss of 135,000 people made little impact on the Japanese military.
However, the Soviet invasion of Manchuria…changed their minds.” Few Americans realize that six of America’s seven five star admirals and generals who earned their fifth star during the war are on record as saying that the atomic bombs were either militarily unnecessary or morally reprehensible or both.
That list includes Generals Douglas MacArthur, Dwight Eisenhower, and Henry “Hap” Arnold and Admirals William Leahy, Ernest King, and Chester Nimitz. Leahy, who was chief of staff to presidents Roosevelt and Truman, called the atomic bombings violations of “every Christian ethic I have ever heard of and all of the known laws of war.” He proclaimed that the “Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender…The used of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. In being the first to use it we adopted an ethical standard common to the barbarians of the dark ages.”
Eisenhower agreed that the Japanese were already defeated. MacArthur said that the Japanese would have surrendered months earlier if the U.S. had told them they could keep the emperor, which the U.S. did ultimately allow them to do.
What really happened? By spring 1945, it was clear to most Japanese leaders that victory was impossible. In February 1945, Prince Fumimaro Konoe, former Japanese prime minister, wrote to Emperor Hirohito, “I regret to say that Japan’s defeat is inevitable.”
The same sentiment was expressed by the Supreme War Council in May when it declared that “Soviet entry into the war will deal a death blow to the Empire” and was repeated frequently thereafter by Japanese leaders.
The U.S., which had broken Japanese codes and was intercepting Japanese cables, was fully aware of Japan’s increasing desperation to end the war if the U.S. would ease its demand for “unconditional surrender.” Not only was Japan getting battered militarily,
it’s railroad system was in tatters and its food supply was shrinking. Truman himself referred to the intercepted July 18 cable as “the telegram from the Jap emperor asking for peace.” American leaders also knew that what Japan really dreaded was the possibility of a Soviet invasion, which they maneuvered unsuccessfully to forestall.
The Japanese leaders did not know that at Yalta Stalin had agreed to come into the Pacific War three months after the end of the fighting in Europe. But Truman knew this and understood the significance. As early as April 11, 1945, the Joint Intelligence Staff of the Joint Chiefs of Staff was reporting that “If at any time the USSR should enter the war, all Japanese will realize that absolute defeat is inevitable.”
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