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Hiroshima (n'est pas) son amour
November 1, 2007 10:15 AM   Subscribe

Paul Warfield Tibbets Jr (1915-2007) The commander of the B-29 plane Enola Gay that dropped the first atomic bomb, on Hiroshima in Japan in World War II, has died at the age of 92. Paul Warfield Tibbets Jr died at his home in Columbus, Ohio. The five-ton "Little Boy" bomb was dropped on the morning of 6 August 1945, killing about 140,000 Japanese. Many others died later. On the 60th anniversary of Hiroshima, the surviving members of the Enola Gay crew said: "The use of the atomic weapon was a necessary moment in history. We have no regrets".
posted by psmealey (115 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
2d link borked, should have been here
posted by psmealey at 10:19 AM on November 1, 2007


.
posted by sluglicker at 10:20 AM on November 1, 2007


Enola Gay is linking to metafilter.com. Obviously because we drop bombs like crazy, yo.
posted by empyrean at 10:20 AM on November 1, 2007


☢✈ = ☠☮
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 10:21 AM on November 1, 2007 [3 favorites]


MeFi is the bomb, yo.

so technically we should be linked to at the "Little Boy" link, but I digress
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:21 AM on November 1, 2007


This should end about as well as the residents of Hiroshima themselves.
posted by DU at 10:31 AM on November 1, 2007


Obviously because we drop bombs like crazy, yo.

I think you meant to say, we drop bombs like Hiroshima.
posted by alexwoods at 10:34 AM on November 1, 2007


*Nukes popcorn, pulls up chair*
posted by Scoo at 10:36 AM on November 1, 2007


Thanks for a lifetime of sleepless nights, fucker.
posted by Optamystic at 10:40 AM on November 1, 2007


I wonder if the Phelps clan will protest at his funeral. It was the Enola Gay, after all.
posted by Atom Eyes at 10:40 AM on November 1, 2007 [2 favorites]


Bomb inventors on its appropriate uses.
posted by noble_rot at 10:41 AM on November 1, 2007


My Paul Tibbets Story:

About 1978 I happened to be at a small shopping mall in Ann Arbor. As I was walking along I noticed a table set up, with stacks of books, and a fellow sitting behind it. There was nobody else at the table, few shoppers, so I stopped to take a look... The fellow behind the table was Paul Tibbets, selling his book "The Tibbets Story"...

It was an interesting conversation, he liked to talk.. I will always remember coming away with the feeling that this man how no idea as to how to come to terms with his history, and thinking that I was glad that I wasn't him.

Our country has a tradition of creating a condition of blind obedience in our soldiers, and then asking them to do things no one should have to live with. Given the propensity of our military to commit suicide when they are faced with the truth of the events they were forced to take part in, it is amazing that Paul Tibbets lived to be 92. Hopefully he's finally found some peace.
posted by HuronBob at 10:43 AM on November 1, 2007 [3 favorites]


These Enola Gay members have been just a bit arrogant every decade when they come out of the woodwork.

They keep releasing statements every 10 years about how proud they are and that they have no regrets.

Who was asking? It was a horrible thing we had to do... it wasn't patriotic or awesome, you killed a shiat load of people... but it ended the war. Go into obscurity coaching little league baseball and quit releasing statements.
posted by DougieZero1982 at 10:44 AM on November 1, 2007 [2 favorites]


darn.. "HAD no idea..."
posted by HuronBob at 10:44 AM on November 1, 2007


I dunno. Given the bombings of cities by all sides during the war, I have always thought that Hiroshima, while horrendous, was little more than an escalation in civilian murder. And since my father was one of those soldiers who would have had to invade the Japanese islands, I have never been able to lose sleep over it. When you talk to people of that generation, most seem to have thought anything was possible and necessary to defeat the enemy. And the Filipinos and Chinese I know whose families suffered under the Japanese seem to agree. I don't applaud the deaths of anyone in war, but especially civilians but look at what was going on at the time.

Not a popular opinion, I know. Let the beating begin.
posted by etaoin at 10:48 AM on November 1, 2007 [9 favorites]


It's an interesting view, Bob, and one that I had wondering long about since having first heard the story when I was 9 or 10 years old. I had often wondered how they managed to live with it. Even though, from most accounts Tibbets was a hard-ass, a career soldier who retired as a general officer, he must have felt something other than "no regrets". But, I'm likely projecting.
posted by psmealey at 10:48 AM on November 1, 2007


Why should this guy be regarded any differently than the guards who ran the ovens at Auschwitz?
posted by Optamystic at 10:49 AM on November 1, 2007


The (non-nuclear) firebombing of Tokyo in 1945 killed an estimated 100,000 in a single night. Without the atomic bombings there would have been many more similar nights. HE did a horrible job that needed to be done.
posted by rocket88 at 10:55 AM on November 1, 2007 [4 favorites]


I used to live near Enola PA, and there was a bar near the train yards named in honor of the plane: the Enola Gay Bar.

It was a longtime hangout for the guys who worked the yards, but sometime in the late 70's people started getting a different idea about what kind of a bar it was.
For some reason.
posted by MtDewd at 10:56 AM on November 1, 2007


.

I'm always on the fence about this issue. Some part of me always thinks that there should have been a better way to end that war. But then I remember that my dad was 18 and in boot camp during VJ day, training to be in the amphibious invasion force of the home islands (ala D-Day). I'm not saying that I value my personal existence more than thousands of innocent Japanese citizens, but that not dropping the bombs wasn't guaranteed to be bloodless.
posted by octothorpe at 10:58 AM on November 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


"Go into obscurity coaching little league baseball and quit releasing statements."

I have a feeling that you won't see any more new statements from Tibbets. Happy?

"Why should this guy be regarded any differently than the guards who ran the ovens at Auschwitz?"

Why should you be regarded any differently than the guards who ran ovens at Auschwitz?
posted by klangklangston at 11:00 AM on November 1, 2007 [5 favorites]


.

Hiroshima Delendo Est
posted by Megafly at 11:04 AM on November 1, 2007


How different from Auchwitz?
Hiroshima & Nagasaki were valid Military targets (Not declared open cities, like Coventry, Dresden & Nara) that contained war industries like any normal industrial city.

Japan had declared war on the USA.

Nuclear Weapons were not on any list of banned weapons or tactics.

Auschwitz and the bombing of Dresden were war crimes, by the book. Hiroshima and Nagasaki were not, by the same book.

That's it for the "Technical" answer, here's the practical answer: Russia was prepared to invade Japan sooner than we were. Would you trade "No Nukes in 2 smallish cities" for a fully Communist Korea and a "North & South Japan"? Plus the attendant casualties of the invasion, which would have dwarfed those of the 2 bombs.

But you are free to set any moral equivalency you like.
posted by bornjewish at 11:07 AM on November 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


"Why should this guy be regarded any differently than the guards who ran the ovens at Auschwitz?"

Well, if you're going to ask simplistic and inflammatory questions, here's a simplistic, black and white (and possibly inflammatory) answer: the Japanese had declared war on us. The Jews had not declared war on anybody.

Start with that, do a little research, and maybe you'll find that everything is complicated and difficult and ugly, as far as war goes. Genocide of Jews, Homosexuals, Poles, Gypsies, and a whole host of other "undesireables" is even uglier.
posted by oneirodynia at 11:09 AM on November 1, 2007 [2 favorites]


.
posted by Skorgu at 11:13 AM on November 1, 2007


the Japanese had declared war on us
And only after attacking before declaring war.
posted by etaoin at 11:15 AM on November 1, 2007


And... let me throw this in, someone will eventually anyway.. estimated deaths in Japan due to nuclear weapons - around 260,000...

Estimated death toll in Iraq that is considered "excess" - around 665,000 (and this is a 2006 figure from a Washington Post article).

We just get better and better at what we do so well...
posted by HuronBob at 11:17 AM on November 1, 2007


What's lost in this debate, though, is the very question of fighting an ethical war. Historically, the more civilian casualties, the less ethical the war. Most of the 70,000 dead in Hiroshima, by an overwhelming margin, were civilians.

I don't think you can simply will that away as an atrocity by discussing an atrocity that might have happened that was prevented by the first. And Hirsoshina and Nagasaki may have contained valid military targets, but there was no precision in this attack. We turned the entirety of both cities into an inferno. The military presence there was just our pretext, our excuse, for demonstrating our might.

And don't point out Dresden and whatnot as being far more terrible. Yes they were. They were also inexcusable. Also. But the dropping of the atomic bomb on civilians was an abomination, and, more than that, created the most dangerous situation in human history, one that began at that moment and stretched forward through history, to this day and beyond: The possibility of nuclear annihilation.

You slept well, you soldier? Then you were a moral ant. 70,000 deaths should weight heavy on someone's conscience, even if those deaths were justified.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:18 AM on November 1, 2007 [3 favorites]


"You think of the lives which would have been lost in an invasion of Japan's home islands—a staggering number of Americans but millions more of Japanese—and you Thank God for the Atom Bomb."
posted by stargell at 11:21 AM on November 1, 2007


That the Japanese had declared war on us probably had no stake in the decision to use nukes. The factors mentioned above- firebombing, impending Russian attack, and the fact that the bombs weren't ready before the end of the European war sealed the fate of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Col. Tibbets and his crew did not even know the full extent of what they were carrying. They trained to drop a really big bomb, bank a high arcing 180 turn, and get the hell out of Dodge. So I think you got him wrong if you equate him to some Major T. J "King" Kong type of character.
posted by Gungho at 11:27 AM on November 1, 2007


Are you willing to do "The Inexcusable" to prevent 100 other inexcusable things from happening? I am. But I would not sleep well afterwards. But I would say I did, in press releases. Every ten years.
posted by bornjewish at 11:28 AM on November 1, 2007


That Tibbets always seemed a bit too sure of the equation and a bit too eager to defend it might just be someone trying to come to grips with a horrendous incident. Or, he could just as easily be the callous war hawk he often came off as. Hard to tell. And hard to hold him directly accountable anyway, since he was just a pilot flying a mission. Still, I confess that I sorta hope he has to spend a few hours chatting with each and every casualty before St. Peter throws open the gate to him.
posted by RavinDave at 11:30 AM on November 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


No Precision?

As compared to what? Even with the Nordon bomb site target accuracy of conventional bombs was only about 20%. Carpet bombing was the norm, hoping that they'd hit something important. Firebombing was used because it was much more effective. Little boy was just a better tool. Most US scientists, let alone military and political leaders had no frikkin clue about radiation. Hell, even after Hiroshima and Nagasaki we had US soldiers walking into test sites minutes after explosions...
posted by Gungho at 11:31 AM on November 1, 2007


That's it for the "Technical" answer, here's the practical answer: Russia was prepared to invade Japan sooner than we were. Would you trade "No Nukes in 2 smallish cities" for a fully Communist Korea and a "North & South Japan"? Plus the attendant casualties of the invasion, which would have dwarfed those of the 2 bombs.

There are plenty of historians who believe that Japan surrendered for precisely this reason: it wasn't just the bombs, they were more motivated by the Soviet invasion of Manchuria and imminent invasion of northern Japan. If that's the case, your equivalence doesn't hold up. If the threat of the Soviets would have been enough to get Japan to surrender, then the bombs did not prevent the Sovietization of Korea and Japan; there's reason to believe that the Japanese would have prevented this by surrendering to the US prior to the invasion, bombs or not. IMHO we dropped the bombs more because of the Soviets than not... but as a threat to the Soviets, not the Japanese. We knew the latter were finished.

Also, to be frank, we have no way of knowing whether a "fully Communist Korea and North & South Japan" would be any worse than what we have now. Call me when the current N.K./S.K. problem is resolved -- preferably by some means that doesn't leave Pyongyang, Seoul, and Tokyo in ruins -- and maybe then we can talk about that.

Are you willing to do "The Inexcusable" to prevent 100 other inexcusable things from happening? I am. But I would not sleep well afterwards. But I would say I did, in press releases. Every ten years.

We have no evidence that any of your 100 inexcusable things would have happened, had we not dropped the bomb. We know only what did happen. Which leaves Tibbets with "I killed 100,000 civilians in war". And that's all.
posted by vorfeed at 11:36 AM on November 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


To a great extent it was an easy way out. And usually easy ways out carry a lot of attendant baggage. I tend to come down on the side that it was a bad thing to do, but I understand the personal relief felt by those who didn't have to invade by land. (incidentally, the casualty estimate numbers for a land invasion has never been a static thing, and took a pretty sharp jump as part of the rationalization for dropping the bombs)
posted by edgeways at 11:38 AM on November 1, 2007


As Vonnegut said, the first bomb may have been necessary. The second was not.
posted by krinklyfig at 11:40 AM on November 1, 2007 [2 favorites]


I have an ongoing debate with my husband over this that goes something like:

me: People not only died, they had cancers and radiation sickness and babies were born with birth defects for years afterward. Isn't that the definition of atrocity?

him: The pilots themselves probably didn't know the long-term effects of the bombs. Some of our own people died years after atomic testing. We were attacked first at Pearl Harbor, and we responded. They shouldn't have attacked us.

me: But the deaths were mostly civilians, who had nothing to do with that attack, which was on a military base. Why go after an entire city, and kill all those civilians?

him: It was a war. More people on both sides would have died if the war kept going, and the bombs ended the war.

...and so on. Neither one of us is ever going to convince the other.
posted by misha at 11:48 AM on November 1, 2007


I'm way too unimportant a person to have access to all the information needed to judge the atomic bombing of Japan, but I have learned something very important from watching people justify it:

It's not the "Hell yeah, kill the Japs/Huns/Yanks/Brits/Jews/Zulus/Injuns/A-rabs/Hutus/Commies/etc." types that doom humanity to many more long years steeped in blood, it's the citizens who say "that was regrettable but necessary" and then go on about their business whenever people who don't look like them and/or share their cultural values are slaughtered that permit the war machine to grind on and on.
posted by lord_wolf at 11:50 AM on November 1, 2007


Refusing to deal with the probable results of not having done something is a nice cop out.

If the threat of the Soviets would have been enough to get Japan to surrender, then the bombs did not prevent the Sovietization of Korea and Japan
That is faulty logic. We didn't want the Japanese surrendering to the Soviets, we wanted them surrendering to us, for good reason. Ask the Poles, Hungarians, Czechs, North Koreans, etc.
posted by bornjewish at 11:50 AM on November 1, 2007


Here's the thing, at least in my view: it was wrong to drop the bomb. I think anyone who does any honest research into the matter (though, to be sure, even among historians the debate is still rather fierce) should realize the decision itself was driven by the Soviets, not Japanese. (I think I posted at length about this the last go round)

However, dropping the bomb was Truman's decision, not Tibbets. Tibbets was simply told to drop ordinance. Which he did. If you feel like playing the historical blame game, which I don't recommend, place the blame on the people who call the shots, not the ones that fire them.
posted by absalom at 11:57 AM on November 1, 2007 [2 favorites]


bornjewish: Oh, and it's rather sweet that you think we wanted Japan to surrender to us so we could protect them from the Soviets, and not so we could have a military presence right up against the Soviets in both the East and West.
posted by absalom at 11:58 AM on November 1, 2007


I've said before in conversations about this that Tibbet's unambiguous lack of any regret whatsoever disturbs me in some ways more than the devastation from the bomb.

Personally, I think the use of the bomb was horrific, unnecessary, and unforgivable. I also acknowledge it was dropped a half-century before I was born. I can't account for what Tibbets knew, what he was told, or what he truly was feeling that day. I don't think he's evil, nor do I have any actual animosity toward him. I don't think he should be scolded, or blamed, or publicly attacked for his role in history. But man, it would have been nice just once to see him thinking that maybe, just maybe, incinerating two hundred thousand people in the blink of an eye wasn't such a great thing to have done.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 11:59 AM on November 1, 2007 [3 favorites]


RIP Mr. Tibbets
posted by caddis at 12:11 PM on November 1, 2007


The decision to drop the bomb was covered at some length in this bio of Oppenheimer that I recently read. I can't remember enough to get into all the details, but one fact that is unknown to most people discussing this is that the Japanese began making overtures toward surrender as early as May, 1945; they attached conditions to their surrender, however. One of those was that they be allowed to keep their emperor. Another point that was alluded to a little above but bears repeating is that the bomb was as much a ploy to intimidate the Soviets as a military strike against Japan. Finally, all the talk about an invasion of Japan is speculation. Japan is an island nation that has to import many raw materials, particularly fuel, and as such may well have been blockaded into submission without an all-out invasion. Of course, that option would also have killed a large number of Japanese civilians.
posted by TedW at 12:12 PM on November 1, 2007


Oh, back to the original FPP, Trinity was the first atomic bomb
/pedant
posted by TedW at 12:18 PM on November 1, 2007


In other news: hammer says the nail deserved hitting and he has no regrets.
posted by papercake at 12:20 PM on November 1, 2007


Nuclear Weapons were not on any list of banned weapons or tactics

They were by the rules of war ca. 1938. Hell, in 1940 the British admiral on the scene in Norway did not shell German positions in some coastal town (in support of a British counter-landing) due to concerns about the Hague Conventions.

Your argument goes in a wrong direction IMV.

What the USAAF did to the Japanese home islands in 1945 was a terrible act. Yet, it was not committed in a vacuum, political, social, or moral, and cannot be analyzed or condemned in one.

Also, international agreements are a two-way street. By *its own actions* in Asia, and against the US, the Japanese state lost any grounds for complaint.

By 1945 Japan didn't have a friend left in the world, and the friends they had going into the 1940s (Hitler, Mussolini, did I miss anybody?) weren't so hot to begin with.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 12:24 PM on November 1, 2007


The moment that created the most dangerous situation in human history was when scientists realized that they could invent a nuclear bomb, not when it was invented. Someone was going to invent it sooner or later as soon as it became possible. For that reason I don't think we have any culpability for creating that crisis. Germany was working on a Bomb, so was Japan. Don't think Japan was anywhere close, but the point is someone would have made it. I don't know how to morally justify the actual use of the Bomb, or if it even should be. But in retrospect I think the outcome of us inventing the bomb first is better than if Germany had, and just having it wouldn't have offered any actual deterrence power. I think that's a more rational than moral argument though.
posted by erikharmon at 12:25 PM on November 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


they attached conditions to their surrender

Which is why there was a clear re-iteration of the Allied demands at Potsdam. The people angloing for conditional surrender were the militarists. . . they wanted to handle their own demilitarization. . . the Allies had just gone through this after WW I, and that method of armistice didn't actually work so well.

"Making motions" to surrender wasn't going to cut it in 1945. It was surrender or be obliterated. It took several months of being "grounded into powder" (Churchill's phrase) for the message to sink in, but it finally did after the two a-bombs. That is the signal fact of this sorry mess that bears consideration.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 12:30 PM on November 1, 2007


I'm a pacifist, but I think bombing Hiroshima was necessary. If we didn't, nuclear weapons would have seemed like a reasonable option in war - and such an attitude would have been devastating if they were first used later, when more were available, when more countries had them. In two blows, we shocked ourselves into realizing we had something akin to an end of the world device.
As for Tibbett - this is an interesting moment in the annals of "meet your maker."
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 12:32 PM on November 1, 2007


incinerating two hundred thousand people in the blink of an eye wasn't such a great thing to have done

Bringing the most hellacious war in human history to a close, however, was a pretty big palliative.

The A-bombs were just "bigger bombs" in 1945. "More rubble less trouble" was in fact the operative strategy in 1940-45. Hell, since 1938 if one looks back to the Japanese aerial bombings in their China Incident, or Guernica.

Two wrongs don't make a right, but the status quo by 1945 does remove any legalistic objections to the bombings.

There is a distinct moral complaint to be made that the US didn't try hard enough to effect a Japanese surrender to our terms. That would have been generous, but IMV that's rather disconnected from the realities of WW2, plus the fact that acts of humanity directed towards the Japanese could easily be seen as weakening resolve by their do-or-die militarists who were still running things.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 12:39 PM on November 1, 2007


Aye, the real reason that Hiroshima and Nagasaki were important was because they created a taboo against nuclear weapons that we have thus far as a species refused to violate.

This taboo has and hopefully will continue to save the world's ass.
posted by OldReliable at 12:44 PM on November 1, 2007


the first bomb may have been necessary. The second was not

I can't categorically disagree with this, given the shock the Russian entry gave to the Japanese militarists' case for continuing the struggle, but IMV it is impossible for Tibbets, or Truman, to have reached this conclusion given the facts available on Aug 9.

We were hitting them with everything we had that summer.

We even flew more mass-murder B-29 missions while the Japanese were still dithering after their initial offical surrender messages.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 12:45 PM on November 1, 2007


my dad's life =140,000 japanese lives is not a defendable idea.
posted by kitchenrat at 12:53 PM on November 1, 2007


kitchenrat: easy for you to say. Truman justified his action partially by having a sense of the American electorate's opinion on this matter.

If the Japanese people did not want to die they had to move away from their cities and/or surrender to our terms.

This was made explicit in Potsdam that July, and implicit since the firebombings began earlier that year.

Plus the victims of Japanese aggression were dying at about that rate, or more, every month, while the imperial warlords were "moving toward" surrender.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 1:34 PM on November 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


Heywood Mogroot writes "I can't categorically disagree with this, given the shock the Russian entry gave to the Japanese militarists' case for continuing the struggle, but IMV it is impossible for Tibbets, or Truman, to have reached this conclusion given the facts available on Aug 9. "

I think it would have been possible to limit the bombing to one time and wait for a longer period than three days before dropping another.
posted by krinklyfig at 1:40 PM on November 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


my dad's life =140,000 japanese lives is not a defendable idea.
posted by kitchenrat at 3:53 PM on November 1 [+] [!]


You are right, of course. However, multiply it by tens of thousands, which is what I believe both of us who said that, were implying. And it explains, perhaps, our personal emotions. And many more months of warfare that would have killed plenty of civilians, too, especially all those being lined up to defend the islands to the death. I know this was a horrible event. I just don't know how, in terms of deaths, it stands out all that mich against Dresden or other firebombings.

When you start a war, you better be prepared for the consequences. Yes, everyone, all of us. In 1945 or 2003,all the same, which is why the civilian population has responsibility, and bears the brunt of reaction, for what its government does.
posted by etaoin at 1:43 PM on November 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


my First post on Metafiler, I love this site. Thanks to everyone who submits such interesting links.

I don't think that anyone doubts there would have been a cold war with the Soviets after WWII even without nuclear weapons. The motivation to create the world's most powerful weapon would be there in any case.

That said, nuclear weapons, because we already had a good grasp on the science and realized the potential, were an inevitability. I also believe that without the usage of one in a real war, there wouldn't have been a powerful enough example of the horror of them to deter people from using them. Therefore, it is a good thing that the first nuclear weapon tested was the small first prototype to end a war rather than a full on thermonuclear warhead to start a war.

A lot of people accuse the United States of acting too hastily in the usage of the Atomic bomb on Japan. They say that they weren't given enough time to surrender either before the first bomb or before the second. If demonstrating how quickly they could be completely annihilated with extremely minimal resources (1 bomber, 1 bomb, 1 city) and risk wasn't enough to expedite whatever political process needed for surrender, what was going to do it? Surrender is not done by the terms or timescale of the defeated.

Tibbets was a soldier and he was given orders. Being given an order which ensured a nearly immediate ticket home for all fellow soldiers was not only not a choice, but it is the dream of every soldier in combat.

In effect, he killed nearly 200,000 people, he pulled the trigger, so to say. Even if what he did was 100% right (obviously never possible) it would make sense that he would constantly have to convince himself that it was the right thing to do. I would seriously think he is a monster if he didn't seem remorseful and perpetually self-justifying about it regardless of how right it was.
posted by hellslinger at 1:47 PM on November 1, 2007


Refusing to deal with the probable results of not having done something is a nice cop out.

To be perfectly honest, this is how I feel about people who go on about some sort of Red Asia, or about a gigantic American invasion of Japan (Operation Olympic was planned, yes, but a plan does not an invasion make, especially with the Commander of the Navy ready to refuse to take part). As far as I can tell, from looking at the opinions of people on both sides who were there, the probable results of our not dropping the bomb were a Soviet near-invasion or partial invasion of Japan, followed by a conditional Japanese surrender to the US -- more or less exactly what happened with the bombs. Even Eisenhower and Nimitz admitted that the bombs did pretty much nothing to change the military outcome of the war.

"If the threat of the Soviets would have been enough to get Japan to surrender, then the bombs did not prevent the Sovietization of Korea and Japan"

That is faulty logic. We didn't want the Japanese surrendering to the Soviets, we wanted them surrendering to us, for good reason. Ask the Poles, Hungarians, Czechs, North Koreans, etc.


I meant that the Japanese would have surrendered to us, in order to escape the impending Soviet invasion. Not a far-fetched idea, considering that this is what they actually did.

At any rate, don't believe me, believe the US Strategic Bombing Survey: "Based on a detailed investigation of all the facts and supported by the testimony of the surviving Japanese leaders involved, it is the Survey's opinion that certainly prior to 31 December 1945, and all probability prior to 1 November 1945, Japan would have surrendered even if the atomic bomb had not been dropped, even if Russia had not entered the war, and even if no invasion had been planned or contemplated." By August 1945, the Japanese were finished, no matter what anybody on either side did, and they knew it. Compared to the forces on the other side, they had no food, no weapons, no fuel, and no fighting men. Hell, their best plan was pretty much "hey, everybody, get down to the beach and fight 'til we die! Here's a stick!" Not exactly a victory march. Olympic might be the only operation in history which could have been better executed had the plan involved everybody simply waiting for three months.

Pretending otherwise is the cop out.
posted by vorfeed at 2:03 PM on November 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


kitchenrat: "my dad's life =140,000 japanese lives is not a defendable idea."

I didn't say it was, what I said was that it's not as simple as dropping the bomb or not dropping the bomb. Both choices had grave consequences and I'm not convinced that Truman made the wrong one.
posted by octothorpe at 2:04 PM on November 1, 2007


I wrote something germane to this topic in another thread once.

Soldiers carry out orders; some live, some die. Some refuse to carry out their orders, and are imprisoned or shot; they are replaced and the mission goes on.

A permanent end to all war would be nice, especially if it could be achieved without a fight. Somewhere over the rainbow, yeah.

Folks who can see this issue as simple, black and white, are either ignorant of the web of circumstances complicating the issue, or are willfully ignoring it; more's the pity, as they waste their own time repeating what little they know when they could be increasing their understanding. They waste the rest of our time when it takes us a moment or two to realize how obtuse they're being.

RIP Mr. Tibbets. His place in history is doubtless nothing compared to his place in his family. After all, he was just a part in something bigger, the stopcock for the whole infernal machine. Nice flying, bud.
posted by breezeway at 2:11 PM on November 1, 2007


So. Vorfeed. How many people would have died in those three months (a number I hardly agree with given the Japanese stand-off abilities in other places with even WORSE logistics)? 50,000? 300,000? A million?
posted by tkchrist at 2:15 PM on November 1, 2007


Pfft. An insufficient job done half-assedly. Made no difference to the overall planetary population and just failed generally. I was expecting a nice big kaboom, a few million dead at minimum and look what I got.

I expect a better effort from you creatures next time. Take a look over in the direction of Mao and Stalin -- now those guys have done some efficient work. Take notes.

...you monkeys are capable of taking notes, right? Am I going to have to starve you again? Don't make me break out the diseases. Thirty-three percent of the global population dead. That's what I expect to see the next time. Get cracking.
posted by aramaic at 2:27 PM on November 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


Hirohito:
"The war situation has developed not necessarily to Japan's advantage, while the general trends of the world have all turned against her interest.

Moreover, the enemy has begun to employ a new and most cruel bomb, the power of which to do damage is, indeed, incalculable, taking the toll of many innocent lives. Should we continue to fight, it would not only result in an ultimate collapse and obliteration of the Japanese nation, but also it would lead to the total extinction of human civilization."


The fact that these words were uttered by the person that motivated his country's leadership to "accept the unacceptable", so soon upon the commission of this act, is significant IMV. Tibbets, for one, could read that and see his personal role in the course of these events.

While in retrospect plenty of what-iffing can be had, decisions are not made in retrospect but with the facts, emotions, and status quo at hand.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 2:28 PM on November 1, 2007 [3 favorites]


.
posted by the cuban at 2:54 PM on November 1, 2007


1. As a longtime opponent of the bombings, I was surprised to hear my Japanese-American wife supporting them, saying her mom was trained to run out and attack the American soldiers with pitchforks...lives may have been saved...

2. It should be noted that on this day in 1952 the even more horrific hydrogen bomb (fusion, not fission) was first tested.
posted by kozad at 2:55 PM on November 1, 2007


I agree with vorfeed. For years I felt that the Hiroshima bomb was justified. I didn't understand why the Nagasaki bombing.

The more information I've found, the more I've become convinced, based on Truman's own words, that he ordered the atom bomb dropped as a "message" to Russia.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 3:00 PM on November 1, 2007


Robert McNamara talks about firebombing in Fog of War:
LeMay said if we lost the war that we would have all been prosecuted as war criminals. And I think he's right. He...and I'd say I...were behaving as war criminals...LeMay recognized that what he was doing would be thought immoral if his side has lost...But what makes it immoral if you lose and not immoral if you win?
One of those was that they be allowed to keep their emperor.

Which they were allowed to do: Hirohito was emperor until he died in 1989.

You think of the lives which would have been lost in an invasion of Japan's home islands--a staggering number of Americans but millions more of Japanese-0and you Thank God for the Atom Bomb.

According to a CIA intelligence monograph, The Final Months of the War With Japan: Signals Intelligence, U.S. Invasion Planning, and the A-Bomb Decision, the initial estimates of American casualties (combined killed and wounded) in an invasion of Japan ranged from 132,500 to 220,000, depending on the invasion scenario. (I've linked to it before, but the link doesn't work anymore.)

The Atomic Bomb and the End of World War II: A Collection of Primary Sources

Atomic Bomb: Decision: "Documents on the decision to drop atomic bombs on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki."
posted by kirkaracha at 3:05 PM on November 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


So. Vorfeed. How many people would have died in those three months (a number I hardly agree with given the Japanese stand-off abilities in other places with even WORSE logistics)? 50,000? 300,000? A million?

As I said above, had we not dropped the bombs, I believe that Japan would most likely have surrendered when Russia invaded Manchuria on August 9, or shortly thereafter. If so, the total number of casualties would have been reasonably close to the number that actually occurred, minus those who died as a result of the atomic bombs.

If, instead, we go with the Bombing Survey's suggestion (no Russian invasion, no American invasion, no atomic bombs, surrender within 3 months of continued conventional bombing of railroads and industrial cities), it's harder to figure... but the total Japanese civilian death toll from the previous nine months of air bombing, including the nukes, was about 330,000. If you subtract the atomic casualties (roughly 100,000 dead on the days of the bombings) and divide the remainder by 3, I think it's quite obvious that significantly fewer civilians would have died from conventional American bombing in the 3 months before a hypothetical Nov. 1 surrender than died from the atomic bombs. That goes double when you realize that much of the Japanese population had already fled the cities, and that a large number of the total bombing deaths occurred in the Tokyo firebombing, an event not likely to be repeated.

I'd say a figure of 50,000 Japanese civilian deaths in those 3 months is reasonable. This leaves another 50K for three months' worth of victims of famine and of Japanese atrocity in their territories, before the total number even approaches the number killed by atomics on the days of the bombings. And that doesn't even count another 100,000 or so victims of the atom bomb who died by the end of '45. Thus, I think that conventional bombing would have done a better job than nukes at minimizing civilian casualties while maximizing the achievement of American military goals, chief among them Japan's surrender.

But then, you probably "hardly agree with" my figures, coming as they do from the same US Strategic Bombing Survey that concluded the Japanese were likely to surrender before November. What do they know about WWII, anyway?
posted by vorfeed at 3:26 PM on November 1, 2007


I'd say a figure of 50,000 Japanese civilian deaths in those 3 months is reasonable.

If we kept the fire bombings up? If we'd let Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Kyoto burn? 50,000 dead? Try more like 300,000. We killed at least 80,000 on February 23, 1945, when we set Tokyo ablaze. We could have burned every Japanese city to the ground -- hell, we were halfway there when Hiroshima was bombed.

Really, the only difference between Tokyo on Feb. 23 and Hiroshima on Aug 6th, in terms of damage and suffering? It only took one plane to destroy Hiroshima.

I really don't see the difference in morality of destroying Hiroshima with one nuclear weapon or ten thousand firebombs. You can argue the radiation, but those burned by fire bore their scars for the rest of their lives.

Does 99 fewer B-29s really make this immoral? Personally, I think there's little difference. I think the dead would agree. If they could.
posted by eriko at 4:30 PM on November 1, 2007



But then, you probably "hardly agree with" my figures, coming as they do from the same US Strategic Bombing Survey that concluded the Japanese were likely to surrender before November. What do they know about WWII, anyway?


What do they know indeed.

Remember when we were greeted as liberators in Iraq?

Let's just say things tend not to go according to "predictions."
posted by tkchrist at 4:43 PM on November 1, 2007


The ever-more-distant armchair hindsight from the comfort of a computer keyboard on issues like this always struck me as a bit presumptuous.

Put yourself in Truman's chair in the summer of 1945. Your war has been raging for almost four full years across the entire face of the earth: land, sea, air and deep under the oceans. Your desktop is most recently covered with the casualty reports from previously unknown little cartographic specks all over the Pacific -- with peculiar little names like Iwo Jima, Tarawa, Okinawa, Guadalcanal. And they're sitting atop the casualty reports from places named Kasserine, Corregeidor, Anzio, Omaha and Utah, the Ardennes. Then you look at the number of Japanese prisoners captured on those Pacific flyspecks -- damn near none because they fought to the death. Then you look at the four massive islands that make up their homeland, and you try to factor in a reasonably intelligent guess at just how much more fierce their defence will be when you hit those beaches. Then you get a phone call from J Robert Oppenheimer in some place called Trinity and he says, "We have a working gadget that may interest you."

And suddenly your military casualty risk is a single bomber crew and possibly a couple of escort fighter pilots. And even that's a long shot, given the altitude at which a B-29 can comfortably fly, the self-protective firepower it carries, and how few experienced Japanese pilots are left. Assuming they had working fighters to fly.

Multiplied only by the number of missions it will take before even the fanatic militarists in charge of their government come to their collective senses.

Which turned out to be two.
posted by Mike D at 5:28 PM on November 1, 2007 [2 favorites]


"... Even though, from most accounts Tibbets was a hard-ass, a career soldier who retired as a general officer, he must have felt something other than "no regrets". But, I'm likely projecting."
posted by psmealey at 1:48 PM on November 1

To bring this thread back to Paul Tibbets, my impression is that he was a more thoughtful man than he is often given credit by modern generations for being. His final wishes for himself included not being buried in a grave, instead being cremated and having his ashes spread over the North Atlantic, which is where, he said "Flying airplanes over the ocean, I've spent some of the most peaceful hours of my life."

He re-enacted the bombing one time, at an air show in Harlingen, TX, where he flew another B-29 over a conventional explosive pile, which was discharged during his fly over to create a mini-mushroom cloud.
"He said the display "was not intended to insult anybody," but the Japanese were outraged. The U.S. government later issued a formal apology."
In the early mission planning, the point of the U.S. building two bombs was clear: there were to have been simultaneous drops in Europe and Japan, as this 2002 interview between Tibbets and Studs Terkel makes clear.
"Paul Tibbets: My edict was as clear as could be. Drop simultaneously in Europe and the Pacific because of the secrecy problem - you couldn't drop it in one part of the world without dropping it in the other. And so he said, "I don't know what to tell you, but I know you happen to have B-29's to start with. I've got a squadron in training in Nebraska - they have the best record so far of anybody we've got. I want you to go visit them, look at them, talk to them, do whatever you want. If they don't suit you, we'll get you some more." He said: "There's nobody could tell you what you have to do because nobody knows. If we can do anything to help you, ask me." I said thank you very much. He said, "Paul, be careful how you treat this responsibility, because if you're successful you'll probably be called a hero. And if you're unsuccessful, you might wind up in prison."
It's clear that Tibbets and the U.S. command, up to President Truman, expected fanatical Japanese resistance to any invasion of Honchu and the home islands. Perhaps they hoped that the "shock and awe" value of dropping atomic bombs would be enough to avoid the expected hand to hand fighting against a Japanese enemy that considered anything but death in combat "dishonorable," and which the Americans had already seen, at Peleliu, Saipan, Guadalcanal, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa. And in light of the increasingly savage tactics employed by the Japanese in those campaigns, American fears about a final invasion of the Japanese home islands certainly seemed well founded, at the time. The availability of multiple atomic bombs in August, 1945 gave Truman the ability to not just demonstrate that the U.S. possessed atomic technology, but that, indeed, America had already built an atomic arsenal, the depth of which the Japanese could not know, but which the public statements of the U.S. government, immediately after August 8, indicated might be great.

While Tibbets strongly believed that dropping the bombs ended the war, he understood that it came at a terrible price to the Japanese, and to the world. But as a Cold Warrior (he didn't retire from the Air Force until 1966), he also understood that if MAD was to work, the reliability of bomber and missile launch crews during the whole of the Cold War was critical to both sides. And I think much of his public persona in his post-war life was lived with thoughts of young men, with similar terrible responsibilities, manning planes and launch bunkers. To have re-thought his mission, in public, in hindsight, would have been to break faith not only with those he led in a terrible, but, as he felt, utterly necessary endeavor, but also to abandon, morally, all those who he left on guard, for the future.

And he thought more of all of them, than that.posted by paulsc at 6:00 PM on November 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


Previously on MeFi. And I will reiterate what I said there:

"He was selected, after nearly a year of scrutiny from the brass, to effectively plan, organize, train, and execute the entire mission. He spent months selecting the right people, training them, preparing them, all from the secrecy of a "from scratch" military base in the barren desert of Utah, and had to enforce such strict security during this time that it nearly cost him his marriage. He had to coordinate the engineers, the pilots, the navs, the bombardiers, the mechanics, the janitors, the medics, and so on. He had to ensure that no one leaked a word about the project. He had to fight powerful brass that didn't know what he had been charged with, in order to secure hardware, personnel, and materials. He had to devise & test every possible scenario, dropping test bombs over & over to ensure that the "Real Thing" would detonate at precisely the right altitude. He had to select the precise date, location, and route. And, in the end, he had to lead the mission on that August day and give the order to drop the bomb. His preparation and leadership ensured that the mission was executed flawlessly. Imagine if he hadn't done everything right - imagine if he did a half-assed job of training & preparing his men - and the bomb was triggered somewhere other than it's intended target? Finally - he had to & still must live with the knowledge that his actions, his efforts, were pivotal in human history and resulted in the death of thousands of people (many innocent) while at the same time effectively ending the war and made the world literally a safer place for democracies & freedom around the world. And, incidentally, secured America's position as the leader of the free world."

We were attacked. Freedom - around the world - was at stake. Tibbets is a true hero.
posted by davidmsc at 6:15 PM on November 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


and which the Americans had already seen, at Peleliu, Saipan, Guadalcanal, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa

and the Phillippines 1944-45, too. That was one hell of a meatgrinder, featuring the same type of combat as Kyushu and Honshu offered.

But there was no reason not to expect Kyushu to be many times worse, especially given the recent slog fighting through Germany, and the amount of resources the Japanese were saving for the final Decisive Battle.

Japanese casualties in the Phillippines:
KIA: 255,795
POW: 11,745
Surrendered after 8/15: 114,010

US had 50k Army casualties, including 10k KIA.
Navy had about 5000 KIA.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 6:29 PM on November 1, 2007


Freedom - around the world - was at stake

You went a bridge too far there, David. The Japanese were finished by the time the bombs were ready. The only question was the full extent of the butcher's bill, and who was paying it.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 6:32 PM on November 1, 2007


Nobody who talks that much about how well they sleep actualy sleeps all that well, IMO.
posted by localroger at 6:56 PM on November 1, 2007


As it turns out, atomic history is a bit of a hobby of mine, as I've mentioned elsewhere here in other threads.

I don't want to belabor the point, but there are just a few things that are off in some peoples' reasoning here.

If you read the available stuff (and I highly recommend reading both of Richard Rhodes books, "The Making of The Atomic Bomb," and "Black Sun, The Making of The Hydrogen Bomb," (as a matter of fact, I would say that those two book should be mandatory reading for American citizens, especially in election years) as well as both biographies of Oppenheimer ("Destroyer of Worlds," and "American Prometheus")) there was a distinct and different outlook in the attack on Nagasaki versus Hiroshima.

Also, if you look at the three options that were on the table (and really, what other options were there), invasion, blockade or trying for an experimental Hail Mary and dropping atomic bombs, the atomic bombing option produced the least number of casualties in total, on both sides.

The Japanese were in no way, shape or form close to surrender, and that was only going to happen if extreme outside pressure was brought to bear.

Yes there were some, some in the Japanese parliament who were advocating surrender, but they had about as much pull as Dennis Kucinich had in stopping the invasion of Iraq.

The people that had sway were pretty much clinically delusional. About on par with Hitler and his general staff in the bunker who were sure that the final push that would hurl the Soviets back to Moscow was right around the corner.

When Hirohito finally stood up to Tojo and the rest of the general staff and, in effect, 'Enough is enough, we've got to quit,' Tojo and the rest of the general staff started planning a coup d'etat to depose Hirohito.

Essentially, dropping the bomb on Hiroshima was the best choice out of three lousy options.
posted by Relay at 7:25 PM on November 1, 2007


Richard Rhodes just published Arsenals of Folly: The Making of the Nuclear Arms Race.
posted by kirkaracha at 7:37 PM on November 1, 2007


I highly recommend the book Shockwave by Stephen Walker for a tight, readable look at the dropping of the atomic bombs on Japan. It's a fantastic, tightly written look at the three weeks between the Trinity test and the August 6 Hiroshima bomb, including lots of fascinating detail about what those days were like for the crew. It also weighs the arguments pro and con thoughtfully.

IMV it is impossible for Tibbets, or Truman, to have reached this conclusion [that the 2nd bomb was unnecessary] given the facts available on Aug 9.

Heywood, you also have to remember that Lieutenant General Leslie Groves, the military head of the Manhattan Project, had been pushing very, very hard for a second bomb, and had actually already ordered a *third* atomic bomb picked up on the same afternoon as the Nagasaki bombing. Groves was pretty gung-ho to keep dropping atomic bombs while he could, and had already drawn up a list by the end of the month of 66 Soviet cities and the number of atomic bombs it would take to destroy them. Truman reigned him in, according to one of his Cabinet members, because he couldn't stand the thought of killing "all those kids" again.

Personally, I think it's important to remember that strategic considerations are not the only factors that come into play during historic events; we're talking about human beings here. Some of them have their own, um, quirks that may also have an impact on a decision like the dropping of the 2nd bomb. Anyway, there's a lot of stuff like this in Walker's book; it's fairly quick must-reading for anyone who wants to learn more about this issue.
posted by mediareport at 7:41 PM on November 1, 2007



You went a bridge too far there, David. The Japanese were finished by the time the bombs were ready. The only question was the full extent of the butcher's bill, and who was paying it.

We though the Germans were done in July , after D-Day. Then there was this little thing called The Hurtgen and then there was the Bulge. You can't think that just because the Japanese no longer had the resources to wage global war that they wouldn't fight like the devil on their own soil.
posted by Gungho at 7:52 PM on November 1, 2007


kirkaracha has just given me my next big read.

Meanwhile, I see in the reviews that Rhodes reveals that our leaders have been lying to us all the time about their intentions and the threat we face to justify our nucular buildup. Who'da thunkit.
posted by localroger at 8:07 PM on November 1, 2007


I haven't read Arsenals of Folly, but Rhodes' writing is getting better and better.

The Making of The Atomic Bomb is a fairly difficult read, yet that's what he got the Pulitzer for (Dark Sun is more like a spy novel in a lot of ways).
posted by Relay at 8:34 PM on November 1, 2007


Gungho: sure, that was my point about the butcher's bill.

The Japanese military's forlorn hope was creating sufficient resistance via suicide tactics and scorched earth attrititive resistance, to hold off the Allies in search of some compromise preserving the national kokutai (position of the emperor, their place in society and avoidance of what was to become Sugamo, and whatever parts of the Empire they could).

However, by the time we had the three a-bombs ready to go, "world freedom" was no longer at stake, since the Japan military had pissed the allied nations off waaay too many times (Pearl Harbor, Singapore, the Bataan death march, Burma POWs, their brutal Phillippines overlordship), to let any bygones be bygones.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 8:55 PM on November 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


Relay, you had some clangers in that missive yourself:

The Japanese were in no way, shape or form close to surrender, and that was only going to happen if extreme outside pressure was brought to bear.

It's important to break down the collective "Japanese" into some constituent power blocs.

The Army brass that got Japan into the war considered it their sacred duty to preserve the never-conquered nation against the defiling existance of being subjected to Allied justice and occupation. The Army soldiers themselves were mixed about this; many were ready to give up, many were still willing to die for the Emperor and nation.

The Navy's race had been run and they were no longer full of fight. Being more international in training and experience, they were willing to give up the struggle. Plus it wasn't their ox that was going to be gored when the victors came looking for justice.

Much of the apparatchiks were looking for a formula for surrender.

Yes there were some, some in the Japanese parliament who were advocating surrender, but they had about as much pull as Dennis Kucinich had in stopping the invasion of Iraq.

The peace feelers to Stalin that the Alperovitz crowd play up falls into that category, but half of the Supreme War Council was institutionally in favor of reaching an acceptable surrender agreement.

The people that had sway were pretty much clinically delusional. About on par with Hitler and his general staff in the bunker who were sure that the final push that would hurl the Soviets back to Moscow was right around the corner.

No it had not quite come to that yet. The Japanese Army still had plenty of flyable aircraft and fuel to inflict significant casualties against American landing attempts.

When Hirohito finally stood up to Tojo

Huh? Tojo was removed from power upon the fall of Saipan, for the simple reason that things weren't looking so hot.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 9:11 PM on November 1, 2007


We were attacked.

Yup. 'course, millions had died already before December '41. Thank goodness for Pearl Harbor. Your noble, freedom-loving nation might have just let the Nazis and the Japanese carry on unmolested, otherwise!

Freedom - around the world - was at stake.

Give us a fucking break. The minute some American starts talking about Freedom, the minute you know it's time to erect the bullshit deflectors. See above.

Tibbets is a true hero.

He followed his orders, he dropped a bomb that incinerated hundreds of thousands of ordinary men, women and children. He may have been a good solder; he was no hero.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:17 PM on November 1, 2007 [3 favorites]


Historical defining moments do not arise in a vacuum of context. The moral cost of dropping of the "bombs" was that McArthur (a gutless, parasitic, self serving prick) was appointed as the new Ame-No-Wakahiko and he quickly proceeded to let Japan off the hook for war crimes. Unit 731 & the wholesale slaughter of 15 MILLION Chinese civilians define barbarity, A-Bombs pale in comparison. Even the Nazis were appalled at the unbridled blood lust Japan championed against their Asian neighbors. Iris Chang in her ably researched The Rape of Nanking is a very revealing read. The rape of Nanking in 1937 is the very definition of barbarity. Just as it is a crime against humanity to perpetrate such an inhumane act it is also a crime against humanity for the rest of the world not to recognize it. The Japanese newspapers announced a bayonet contest between 2 Lts. A running tally of CIVILIANS they killed with a bayonet were reported like a cricket match everyday in the newspapers. Everybody even associated with the medical experiments of Unit 731, should have been hanged. These were the guys that performed LIVE vivisections of prisoners, no anesthesia for the subhumans. Instead the US incorporated these “scientists” and their medical experiments into our own research. While the use of data from German concentration camps medical experiments ethical use is debated; this is not even considered with the Japanese Medical experiments. Most ironic was that these “Doctors” were allowed to practice medicine after the war; some becoming heads of medical institutions. The continued rampant racism of the Japanese was revealed with a Halloween Train post here on MeFi. Cannibalism by the Japanese was a fate that George Bush Sr. narrowly escaped. There are no National moments to Hitler, Himmler or Hoess. Germans were forced to own up for their failures as a people. Japan venerates WAR CRIMANLS, the cover-ups perpetrated by Japanese textbooks, and Japan's self-imposed censorship all blatantly ignore their own moral culpability. Japan sees itself as a victim of the Bomb, period. The only problem with the war for the Japanese was that they lost

Vets who had fought in Europe were pissed at having to fight in the Pacific. American were tired of war, it was a great relief that more of our boys were not going to have to die.

It is instructive that Gen. McArthur was all for using nukes against the Chinese in North Korea. It was Truman who said NO and at great political risk; keelhauled McArthur.
posted by Rancid Badger at 9:25 PM on November 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


If we kept the fire bombings up? If we'd let Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Kyoto burn? 50,000 dead? Try more like 300,000. We killed at least 80,000 on February 23, 1945, when we set Tokyo ablaze.

And we killed only 5,000 when we set Yokohama ablaze -- a city of about 900,000, about 50% burned. Firebombing casualties were not a linear matter, especially not in August '45, when they were no longer a surprise to the Japanese. Using Tokyo (by far the most damaging fire attack) as a representative example is totally ridiculous.

Let's just say things tend not to go according to "predictions."

So, let me get this straight. You can predict that "300,000? A million?" people would have died in 3 months of firebombings, etc, but the people behind the US Strategic Bombing Survey didn't know what they were talking about? Come on.

You know, the evidence provided here is just so overwhelming that I've changed my mind. You're right -- there's absolutely no reason to believe that three months of firebombing wouldn't have caused an equal amount of death as nine months of firebombing, including the largest city in Japan, AND two motherfucking nuclear bombs. Why, I don't know what I was thinking, what with basing my estimate on what actually happened in the war and all. Silly me!
posted by vorfeed at 9:41 PM on November 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


Japan venerates WAR CRIMANLS

And America elects them.
posted by homunculus at 9:56 PM on November 1, 2007


Good post, psmealey. I am pleased to see that, while we're not all in agreement about what was the "right" thing to do, this thread did not turn into a nuclear hellstorm. If you will.
posted by dhammond at 10:06 PM on November 1, 2007


hundreds of thousands of ordinary men, women and children.

er, 'hundreds' in the sense that one is, um, in the hundreds. Apologies for my hyperboles.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 10:26 PM on November 1, 2007


Here's a recent interview with Dutch Van Kirk, the navigator on the Enola Gay.
posted by twsf at 10:26 PM on November 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


homunculus you will not find argument from me. In his defense he has a good case of diminished mental ability.

Interesting asides:

Within months at the end of the war my dad's B-29 was overflying Vladivostok. Flying with non military guest who said very little. They would fly over lumber boats who would roll the logs off and open up with AA fire on the B-29.

My great Aunt was secretary to E Roosevelt. She wrote my dad in Mar of 1945 "that she "hoped for a really big bomb that would end the war.)"
posted by Rancid Badger at 11:08 PM on November 1, 2007


The continued rampant racism of the Japanese

this Yamanote thing is more of a cultural-impedence-mismatch issue rather than 'racism', IMV.

There's quite a lot of basis of fact for the "baka gaijin" [look at those idiot gaijin] sentiment present among the Japanese.

I lived in Tokyo for most of the 90s and had zero negative experiences regarding racism. 'course I was living in the gaijin ghetto, with embassies left & right, for the last 5 years so that helped things.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 12:41 AM on November 2, 2007 [1 favorite]


Anyone know whether he had a grandson named Chuck (or Charles, I guess)? I went to school with a Chuck Tibbets and I seem to remember a history teacher once identifying him in class as the son or grandson of one of the men who dropped the A-Bombs on Japan. But maybe I'm delusional. His wikipedia entry mentions a grandson named Paul Tibbets IV. It says nothing about any other grandchildren.
posted by Clay201 at 3:01 AM on November 2, 2007


I hope his family suffers the same fate that he inflicted upon the families of others. And I especially hope their deaths are written off with the excuse "It had to be done". Rot in Hell, you amoral asshole.
posted by jsonic at 8:02 AM on November 2, 2007


So, the sins of the father are visited upon the son, as it were? What made the the atomic bombing of Hiroshima so bad that innocents must die for it, jsonic? Does his family have some kind of collective guilt perhaps? Or maybe it should be a warning to others?
posted by Snyder at 9:09 AM on November 2, 2007


What made the the atomic bombing of Hiroshima so bad that innocents must die for it, jsonic?

This man felt no remorse or regret for directly targeting, incinerating, and radiating the innocent civilians (men, women, children, families) of Hiroshima. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you isn't a one way street.

Same goes for all of you who think it's OK to directly target and massacre innocent civilians, as was done in Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and the firebombings of Tokyo and Dresden. If you're cool with other people's families being targeted and slaughtered, then I'm cool with it happening to you and yours.
posted by jsonic at 10:15 AM on November 2, 2007


If you're cool with other people's families being targeted and slaughtered, then I'm cool with it happening to you and yours.

So what?
posted by breezeway at 10:49 AM on November 2, 2007


So what?

What?
posted by jsonic at 11:03 AM on November 2, 2007


jsonic You obviously have no understanding of War. That's the kind with a capital W. Not the kind we have fought since VietNam. Collateral damage was not considered in a War. If that building was between you and the Enemy, then blow it up. If that city had factories or shipyards, then blow it up. Weapons of War at the time were designed to kill with complete disregard for collateral damage. Tibbetts was a Soldier. Loyal to his country, and faced with a daunting task. Get into a time machine and step out in 1945, and you'd be faced with the same decision, given limited knowledge of the gadget, and compared to what was the norm, you'd have made the same decision.
posted by Gungho at 11:08 AM on November 2, 2007


What?

your experiences in Japan totally color your perspective
posted by Rancid Badger at 11:25 AM on November 2, 2007


you'd have made the same decision.

Bullshit. It's really simple: don't intentionally kill civilians. Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Tokyo, and Dresden were NOT collateral damage. The death of innocents there was not a mistake, it was intentional.

Tibbetts and his cohorts knew with absolute certainty that thousands of innocent civilians would die if they dropped the bomb. And they chose to do so, with no remorse or regret afterwards.

Make all the arguments you want about how it shortened the war. In the end, you've accepted that slaughtering a whole bunch of random innocent people is OK if it achieves your goal. I'm sorry, but declaring War doesn't absolve your from having even a modicum of morality or human decency.

I'm surprised you psychopaths aren't calling for the nuking of a couple Iraqi cities. Surely, if it was OK to slaughter Japanese civilians in order to stop the war, then by the same fucked up logic, why not incinerate a few hundred thousand Arabs?
posted by jsonic at 11:44 AM on November 2, 2007


your experiences in Japan totally color your perspective

If you're referring to me, then I agree. Standing at the hypocenter of the Nagasaki blast really brings home how brutal and genocidal the bombs were. The constant mantra back here of "It had to be done" just amplifies that.
posted by jsonic at 11:47 AM on November 2, 2007


If you accept that the people of Nagasaki, Hiroshima and Dresden were fair game, you also have to accept that the WTC and the people who worked there were valid targets on 9/11. As bitter a pill as this is to swallow, I don't think you can have it both ways on this issue.

I know a lot of Americans who dismiss the atomic bombing of Japan with some cavalier hand-waving and parroting that 140,000 was a small price to pay in order to (theoretically) save a million. But when it's our own, there's wailing and gnashing of teeth. It's human nature, I guess.

I do believe that the "saving lives" argument for dropping the bomb is a valid one, but I also believe that the second one was a dropped to demonstrate to the Soviets that we had the will to do it, and had little to do with ending the war or inducing Japan to surrender.
posted by Tommy Gnosis at 12:14 PM on November 2, 2007 [1 favorite]


If you accept that the people of Nagasaki, Hiroshima and Dresden were fair game, you also have to accept that the WTC and the people who worked there were valid targets on 9/11. As bitter a pill as this is to swallow, I don't think you can have it both ways on this issue.

That is completely illogical.
posted by caddis at 1:51 PM on November 2, 2007


Don't make me turn this car around!

I am referring to the events at the time. In 1945 it was quite normal to have significant civilian casualties in a War. In 1945 Hiroshima, Dresden, London, Tokyo, Berlin etc. were all fair game. In fact so would Bath MAine, Groton Ct. and LA if the Axis had enough air power. Because the all were cities in which War related industries were surrounded by civilians, and because there were no such thing as smart bombs, only big and even bigger bombs. The Atom bomb was a really big bomb. The difference between radiation related injuries and shrapnel or fire or concussive injuries was of little consequence. It was just different.
posted by Gungho at 1:59 PM on November 2, 2007


That is completely illogical.

Nah, it's really not.

If the US, in your view, is supporting repressive regimes in your country, engaging in underhanded tactics and sometimes military intervention to keep your country in poverty, then you will perceive that it is waging warfare on you. So, you attack civilian targets to strike at the enemy. Makes sense to you.

In the US, the response to it is shock, outrage about the slaughter of innocents and "why do they hate us". In certain sectors of the mideast, it's more or less "they had it coming".

If you put yourself in the mind of the enemy, I fail to see how it's not just a little analogous and entirely logical.
posted by Tommy Gnosis at 2:19 PM on November 2, 2007


Sorry, you have failed to logically equate the two. So you are saying that I as a citizen of the US can just take it upon my self to launch attacks at another country just because they support the repressive regime of GW Bush? (Watch out Australia) Just stop now. You are being sillier than Monty Python.
posted by caddis at 2:41 PM on November 2, 2007


This man felt no remorse or regret for directly targeting, incinerating, and radiating the innocent civilians (men, women, children, families) of Hiroshima. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you isn't a one way street.

Same goes for all of you who think it's OK to directly target and massacre innocent civilians, as was done in Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and the firebombings of Tokyo and Dresden. If you're cool with other people's families being targeted and slaughtered, then I'm cool with it happening to you and yours.


So, what you're saying is that you're really ok with the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki? I'm really confused.

Actually, I'm being disingenuous, because your position dosen't make any sense. I mean, are you cool with your family being slaughtered by firebombs or whatever? I mean, you say it's ok for innocents to be killed, and people who think innocents are ok to kill should have their innocents be killed, so your innocents should be killed, by people who's innocents should be killed...it's all very complex.

That is completely illogical.

I'm gonna go with caddis here. Any two attacks on civilans are not neccesairly equal.
posted by Snyder at 5:32 PM on November 2, 2007


Tommy Gnosis isn't saying that 9/11 was okay, he's saying that, if you accept that targeting civilians is acceptable in the course of war, you can't turn around and call 9/11 unacceptable.
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:27 PM on November 2, 2007


TG is full of shit.
posted by caddis at 8:05 PM on November 2, 2007


TG is full of shit.

That may or may not be the case, but targeting of civilian populations, whether it be Hiroshima or the WTC or Dresden or [insert example here] is always wrong.

Two things that are both wrong are not necessarily 'equal' in any important sense other than that they are both wrong, of course. Duh.

Trying to parse out 'wrong' and 'wronger' is a fool's game. There's never a shortage of fools keen to make the attempt, though.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 8:52 PM on November 2, 2007


I didn't say they were equal. I was just saying that it's logically inconsistent for people to shrug their shoulders about targeting civilians in Hiroshima and cry foul about 9/11 when we were targeted, often the case in the US. Either it's always wrong, or it's sometimes acceptable. To call one fair (because we were "justified" did it to "them") and the other foul (because "they" were murderous) is a child's position.

TG is full of shit.

And caddis is a condescending jackass with poor analytical skills. Weee, that was fun.
posted by Tommy Gnosis at 9:03 AM on November 3, 2007


.

A hero. I wish I could have shaken hands with him. RIP.
posted by orthogonality at 4:08 AM on November 11, 2007


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