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Children of the Atomic Bomb
June 28, 2009 4:50 PM   Subscribe

Ground Zero 1945: Pictures by Atomic Bomb Survivors. Astonishing works created more than 25 years after the event, many accompanied by artist's comments. [disturbing, possibly NSWF artworks]

Paintings are from the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, presented on Dr. James Yamazaki's Children of the Atomic Bomb website.
posted by fire&wings (71 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
Somehow . doesn't quite cover it
posted by mattoxic at 5:13 PM on June 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


Picking up maggots that appeared in the wounds. Age at time of blast: 4.

.
posted by killy willy at 5:21 PM on June 28, 2009


Thanks for this, fire&wings.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:30 PM on June 28, 2009


Jesus.
posted by you're a kitty! at 5:41 PM on June 28, 2009


.
posted by Catblack at 5:53 PM on June 28, 2009


I remember seeing an animation in the early 80s about the Hiroshima blast. It really struck me as a kid, and gave me nightmares for a couple days.

In searching around, I learned that this is, apparently, a video shown to Japanese school children. So here it is.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 6:07 PM on June 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


So here it is.

I'd never seen that. Thanks, MStPT.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:15 PM on June 28, 2009


Here's a better quality version.

Watching it again, it still fucks me up.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 6:19 PM on June 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


Fuck, that's a hell of a thing to watch. Wow. For me, this and the paintings in the FPP bridge a gap between the horrors of the bombings and the post-WWII art of Japan. It's one thing to intellectually know that Godzilla was born of atomic hysteria; it's another to draw a straight line from the visceral body horror of something like Akira to the real, immediate experiences of these survivors.
posted by churl at 6:30 PM on June 28, 2009


A sad event in human history, figuring out how to unlock the power of the atom, just to release it in weaponized form on large population centers. Yes, I realize even more people would have died (especially more of our soldiers) had we not dropped the bombs. Nevertheless, it still stands as the most horrific human-caused event in history, in terms of people vaporized per millisecond.
posted by jamstigator at 6:32 PM on June 28, 2009


I'm not even sure if more people would have died, to be honest. By that point, Japan was cut off from fuel sources in southeast Asia, they had no anti-air defense, pretty much no navy, were getting firebombed on a regular basis, and the overall thinking in the Japanese military - with the exception of some of the never-say-die leaders - was to negotiate for surrender. But the US wanted an unconditional surrender, so things stalemated.* Until the bomb.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 6:37 PM on June 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


So, I don't know. Whether it "spared lives" or not, I agree, jamstigator - it opened a door that should have never been opened.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 6:38 PM on June 28, 2009


Marissa: Here's a better quality version... Watching it again, it still fucks me up.

That really is a horrific and terrible thing to watch.

I wonder if the animated version of the Rape of Nanking is similarly detailed.
posted by fatbird at 6:42 PM on June 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


Yes, two wrongs make a right. I forgot.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 6:47 PM on June 28, 2009


Marissa: the overall thinking in the Japanese military - with the exception of some of the never-say-die leaders - was to negotiate for surrender.

The never-say-die crew were the ones in charge, and the negotiated settlement that some were trying to get (and it's not even clear they had the authority to negotiate it) was a return to the pre-war status quo.

That video is probably pretty truthful to the horror of being in Hiroshima that day, but seeing it in isolation, in animated form no less, is nothing short of propaganda. It's another brick in the wall of the revisionist Japanese history of WWII that absolves them of all blame, casting them as the victims.
posted by fatbird at 6:50 PM on June 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


Yes, two wrongs make a right. I forgot.

That's not the point. Isolating it, and amping it up with cute animated children, makes it out to be a singular horror that was visited unjustifiably upon them, rather than placing it in a context where the decision is at least understandable, even if you disagree with it.
posted by fatbird at 6:52 PM on June 28, 2009


That video is probably pretty truthful to the horror of being in Hiroshima that day, but seeing it in isolation, in animated form no less, is nothing short of propaganda. It's another brick in the wall of the revisionist Japanese history of WWII that absolves them of all blame, casting them as the victims.

First of all, do you not think it's possible to recognize the horror of both Nanking and Hiroshima?

Secondly, while it's true there are a lot of prominent voices holding onto the old idea that the Japanese were hapless victims of American aggression, I think you'll find that there are more and more people speaking up. Prominent novelist Haruki Murakami has been a champion in this regard. Change is needed in the history books, definitely, but change is slow to come. It is gathering momentum though.

I do find it tiresome when people bring this up, as if Japan and Japan alone are the only country in the world to write history in their own favor. Christ, when I look back on what I was taught about US history ...
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 6:54 PM on June 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


I wonder if the animated version of the Rape of Nanking is similarly detailed.


The Japanese word for "troll" is 荒らし, or arashi.

While there's no doubt the Japanese military committed atrocities in Nanking, Iris Chan's book is full of inaccuracies fueled by hate and mental illness.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:01 PM on June 28, 2009


I do find it tiresome when people bring this up, as if Japan and Japan alone are the only country in the world to write history in their own favor. Christ, when I look back on what I was taught about US history ...

I certainly wouldn't single out Japan for writing history in its own favour, but post WWII Japanese history is exceptional in its revisionism and dishonesty, and with every passing generation, "getting it right" seems less courageous to me.

Certainly we can recognize all the horrors of WWII. That's my complaint about that video: It recognizes only one.

In a larger sense, though, the horror of the dropping of the atomic bombs is overdone. That exact video could have been made equally horrible by doing the firebombing of Tokyo, or the Rape of Nanking. It wouldn't be less horrific if it were about those things, would it? Focusing on its apparently unique horror is a way of impugning the decision to drop the bombs through an appeal to emotion, when I don't think it was more horrible than many other things that occurred.
posted by fatbird at 7:05 PM on June 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


My father was a US Marine who fought in the Pacific Theater in WWII. He was among the fist US troops to land on Nagasaki after the bomb fell. It was the only part of his service he refused to talk about, and for the rest of his life he suffered from nightmares in which he relived the horror of that time. But he never doubted that dropping the bombs was the right decision. The alternative was an invasion of Japan, which would have been a bloodbath of unimaginable magnitude.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 7:05 PM on June 28, 2009


Focusing on its apparently unique horror is a way of impugning the decision to drop the bombs through an appeal to emotion, when I don't think it was more horrible than many other things that occurred.

Where are you getting this idea that it's a "unique horror"? Because the video didn't depict every single thing that happened in the Asian theatre? Seems a bit of a stretch as far as complaints go.

Ryu Murakami mentions in his novel 69 that people of his generation - born within a few years of the war - were horrified and outraged by Nanking, and were talking about it in 1969. Whatever the history books there may say, I think many if not most Japanese were and are aware they did horrible things in the war. I don't think this denies them the right to mourn Hiroshima.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 7:12 PM on June 28, 2009


I think there's a position to be had somewhere in between "We should never have used atomic weapons" and "We needed to use them twice, in the middle of cities full of innocent civilians."
posted by empath at 7:13 PM on June 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


That's not the point. Isolating it, and amping it up with cute animated children, makes it out to be a singular horror that was visited unjustifiably upon them, rather than placing it in a context where the decision is at least understandable, even if you disagree with it.

I'm sorry, under what circumstances is dropping nuclear weapons on children justifiable?
posted by empath at 7:15 PM on June 28, 2009 [4 favorites]


The alternative was an invasion of Japan, which would have been a bloodbath of unimaginable magnitude.

On Hiroshima threads I come here and defend the bombings, but this is incorrect.

The invasion of Kyushu was still a month or two away. We bombed these cities as soon as we could, as we aid we would at Potsdam in July.

It is difficult to argue over whether the bombings and mass-murder of tens of thousands of Japanese civilians were necessary or even sufficient to get the government to finally agree to surrender, or even begin to countenance surrender talks.

Some people defend the bombing of Hiroshima since it was a legitimate military target and an important army base supporting Kyushu, but cities themselves cannot be legitimate targets.

The new atomic bombing campaign certainly gave the Japanese government a face-saving way to throw in the towel, two years too late for most Japanese and the rest of Asia that was caught up in the catastrophe.
posted by @troy at 7:16 PM on June 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Whatever the history books there may say, I think many if not most Japanese were and are aware they did horrible things in the war. I don't think this denies them the right to mourn Hiroshima.

I agree with this, at least as far as my experience of Japanese people goes. I worked at a Japanese company for six years, and got to know a few quite well. The ones my age, if they cared about the history of WWII, were at least aware that it was much more complex than they were taught in school--it probably helped that we were all located in the U.S. My boss, a Japanese man born just after WWII and raised in the rubble, was a bit of an iconoclast, but he didn't seem to think he was rare in having a strongly anti-Imperial Japan viewpoint.

Where are you getting this idea that it's a "unique horror"?

I think what I'm reacting to is the animation--the cute little children with big manga eyes, that later melt. It's a grossly heavy-handed portrayal of what happened. Calling that video propaganda is not denying them the right to mourn Hiroshima. It's singling out a pernicious viewpoint that's been too long in changing.
posted by fatbird at 7:20 PM on June 28, 2009


"were getting firebombed on a regular basis"

And more people were killed in the larger fire-bombings than with nukes.

Not that the suffering of civilians wasn't horrible in both cases.
posted by bardic at 7:20 PM on June 28, 2009


under what circumstances is dropping nuclear weapons on children justifiable

The Japanese strategy was to continue bleed us with suicidal resistance and hope for our will to fail. That didn't work for the Germans but there was no reasonable expectation that the Allied leadership could expect anything less from the Japanese.

Hirohito's surrender radio address:

But now the war has lasted for nearly four years. Despite the best that has been done by everyone--the gallant fighting of our military and naval forces, the diligence and assiduity of out servants of the State and the devoted service of our 100,000,000 people--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.

Such being the case, how are we to save the millions of our subjects, nor to atone ourselves before the hallowed spirits of our imperial ancestors? This is the reason why we have ordered the acceptance of the provisions of the joint declaration of the powers.

posted by @troy at 7:21 PM on June 28, 2009


Thanks for the main link, fire&wings. The pictures remind me of imagery from Buddhist hell scrolls.
posted by stinkycheese at 7:29 PM on June 28, 2009


I'm sorry, under what circumstances is dropping nuclear weapons on children justifiable?

Under the same circumstances that's justifiable to firebomb them: If it brings an end to war and prevents a worse outcome in death and destruction. Maybe that's not justifiable at all, but I don't see a case for viewing nuclear weapons differently than other weapons that have killed children in wartime.
posted by fatbird at 7:30 PM on June 28, 2009


Atrocity one-upmanship.

"Well, I've heard radiation sickness can be a drag, but you know, rape of Nanking and all, so you know, it's kama"
posted by mattoxic at 7:31 PM on June 28, 2009


Under the same circumstances that's justifiable to firebomb them

Okay, so never, then.
posted by empath at 7:33 PM on June 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


I always heard the bomb was used to impress the Russians. I guess this proved a tactical mistake since they got their own bomb leading to the cold war. But maybe it prevented another war in Europe and got people on the moon.
posted by jeffburdges at 7:36 PM on June 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Okay, so never, then.

I have trouble disagreeing with this. I'm always a bit surprised that the general bombing of cities in WWII receives less critical attention than the decision to drop atom bombs, when the former was obviously worse in terms of casualties and general destruction, and not really better than the effects of an atom bomb in any sense.
posted by fatbird at 7:37 PM on June 28, 2009


I have trouble disagreeing with this. I'm always a bit surprised that the general bombing of cities in WWII receives less critical attention than the decision to drop atom bombs, when the former was obviously worse in terms of casualties and general destruction, and not really better than the effects of an atom bomb in any sense.

Delivery Mechanism

After effects

Bang for buck

Area denial

Which is more effective?
posted by mattoxic at 7:40 PM on June 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Which is more effective?

The effectiveness of a means of killing isn't a moral concern, when the casualty rates are the same. Is one atomic bomb more immoral than a raid's worth of incendiaries?
posted by fatbird at 7:47 PM on June 28, 2009


Given the eyewitness sketches linked to in this FPP, I wonder how it is possible to even argue about whether or not the use of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki is just or not. What occurred is a horror that is beyond words. It really is. If you don't understand what I mean, look at the sketch of the pink, bloated corpses in the water tank, surrounded by corpses reduced to charcoal brickettes. If you are cool and rational enough to advocate the use of the bomb not once, but twice against the Japanese, then you are cool and rational enough to argue that, at some point in the future, there will a situation where a pre-emptive, first-strike use of nuclear weapons will be acceptable and morally defensible. And such a point of view is, in my opinion, utterly mad.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:50 PM on June 28, 2009 [5 favorites]


Okay, so never, then.

There are, really, no rules, or justifications in war. It is not a humane or even human activity. It is murder on any scale. To the extent we attempt to make it humane it is a recognition of the other side's rights and responsibilities.

Taking away the various peripheral facts of the conflict, like the Japanese launching the attack while their negotiators were still in DC, their decade-long torturing of China (affronts to humanity that put the US on a war course with Japan in the first place), the tens of thousands of US inductees, and hundreds of thousands of Japanese inductees killed by 1945, their treatment of Philippine civilians, Chinese civilians, and Allied POWs captured in 1942, the continued suicidal defense of Iwo Jima, Okinawa, and the home islands under our strengthening blockade into 1945, will lead one to form an opinion that is not based on any recognizable reality but just glittering generalities.

The only thing Truman owed the US citizenry and the world was bringing the war to a successful conclusion as quickly as possible. He succeeded. There were a lot more worse paths, for everyone, this war could have gone down.

As we are seeing with Obama now, events and policy have momenta of their own. Truman inherited a dangerous world in 1945 and allowed the war to resolve as it the correlation of forces involved had become entwined.

The Japanese were certainly free to complain about LeMay switching to fireboming instead of conventional strategic industrial targets. But the Japanese militaries decade-long bloody occupation and bombardment of Chinese cities didn't really give them a moral leg to stand on, either contemporaneously, or in the court of history.
posted by @troy at 7:55 PM on June 28, 2009


Very powerful images, both the paintings and the video.. I once met Paul Tibbets, the pilot and commander of the B-29 that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. It was a very strange encounter.

I was a young man, I happened to stop by a mall in Ann Arbor, and as I walked through the mall there was a table set up, books on the table, with a fellow sitting behind it. I can't remember which of his books he was promoting, but as I realized who was in front of me, I could think of nothing to say...

He presented a sad and haunted appearance...

thanks for these links.... They need to be shared...
posted by HuronBob at 7:59 PM on June 28, 2009


And such a point of view is, in my opinion, utterly mad

My grandfather saw scenes 100 times worse every day for months on Peleliu and Okinawa, being one of the few Marine riflemen to survive both battles physically intact.

The whole fucking war was utterly mad. After the mistakes of Versailles we were not going to leave a Japanese war machine intact on the home islands, and said war machine was willing to die behind the last civilian to preserve the existing undefeated and undefeatable Japanese kokutai and their position within it.

So we get Hiroshima when two forces that can't compromise come into conflict. Nagasaki too, as a demonstration that the clock was still ticking on the physical existence of the Japanese as a people.
posted by @troy at 8:00 PM on June 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Certainly we can recognize all the horrors of WWII. That's my complaint about that video: It recognizes only one.

Yeah, you know, I was just thinking how much of a shame it was that Saving Private Ryan only had a depiction of D-day and didn't include anything about the bombing of Dresden.

(*eyeroll*)

The things that the military of a nation does during wartime and the things that happen to the civilians of that nation during wartime are often two different things. Both perspectives are equally valid. But they are different, to the poitn that trying to put them both in the same film wouldn't make sense.

There is an upcoming movie about the Rape of Nanking. Both Nanking and Hiroshima are stories that deserve to be told, and they're both being told. Just like Dresden deserves to be told, as does Auschwitz, as does the beaches at Normandy, as does Iwo Jima, as does Manzanar, as does...
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:01 PM on June 28, 2009 [4 favorites]


Arguing that the other side deserved it is kind of ridiculous, since we're not talking about killing soldiers, we're talking about intentionally targetting civilians.

There's no way you can convince me that dropping two bombs on civilian targets was anything but mass murder and a war crime on an unimaginable scale. The firebombing of Dresden was no better.
posted by empath at 8:03 PM on June 28, 2009


What occurred is a horror that is beyond words.

I really don't intend to diminish the horror of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. My whole perspective in this is that there are equal horrors (no, I don't mean the rape of Nanking; I mean, for example, the firebombing of Tokyo or Dresden), and that elevating the atomic bombings above those obscures the real moral issues of WWII. Discussion of Hiroshima and Nagasaki tends to erroneously concentrate on the atomic part instead of the bomb part.

If you are cool and rational enough to advocate the use of the bomb not once, but twice against the Japanese, then you are cool and rational enough to argue that, at some point in the future, there will a situation where a pre-emptive, first-strike use of nuclear weapons will be acceptable and morally defensible

I don't think mindulness of the horror of Hiroshima and Nagasaki is a sufficient to avoid that fearful conclusion, especially when it distracts from horrors that are greater in the aggregate.
posted by fatbird at 8:05 PM on June 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


since we're not talking about killing soldiers, we're talking about intentionally targeting civilians

Not justifying this in any way, but the rationalization to target cities comes from the fact that war was no longer just a matter of two armies fighting it out. Whole populations were involved because they were the means to produce all the stuff one needs to fight said war. So destroy the ability to produce the tanks, etc...win the war.

Atrocity, criminal....well its war and we sadly tend to come to these conclusions after we win said war using said atrocities. Someday we may grow up a bit, but I doubt it.

Incredibly disturbing post, fire&wings, thanks...
posted by sundri at 8:14 PM on June 28, 2009


The effectiveness of a means of killing isn't a moral concern, when the casualty rates are the same. Is one atomic bomb more immoral than a raid's worth of incendiaries?


The casualty rates are not the same. Radiation sickness continues to kill long after the initial blast. The health system is far more stressed, rescue and rebuilding is much more difficult.
posted by mattoxic at 8:26 PM on June 28, 2009


"Total war" involving the full-scale, intentional targeting of civilians in a methodical or industrialized way is less than 75 years old (although I suppose Sherman's March is an exception). The whole idea of total wars can be linked to the (new) concept of races battling it out for supremacy. So I don't think you can argue that "war is war."
posted by KokuRyu at 8:28 PM on June 28, 2009


There's no way you can convince me that dropping two bombs on civilian targets was anything but mass murder and a war crime on an unimaginable scale.

If you don't buy the utilitarian argument that is your right.

I'm no philosopher and don't have much truck with Utilitarianism, but in the big scheme of things it's arguable that the Japanese on the whole were lucky to be bombed as they were, compared to the experience that the Germans underwent in 1945-46 in their final resistance and subjugation under Stalin, not to mention a rather non-humane American & French occupation. The Germans lost ~3X the civilians dead as the Japanese, ~1.5M to 600K.

If the defeat of Japan had gone along the lines of the defeat of Germany, the Japanese nation would have lost a lot more, but it's impossible to argue hypotheticals in front of a war crimes tribunal. The allies were secure that they would not have to face a tribunal for their actions.

The Japanese were certainly in no position to judge our actions, as they had been gleefully doing the same sort of terror-bombing since the mid-30s. It is estimated that the Chinese lost 10X the number of civilian dead as the Germans, which, as mentioned above, were 3X the Japanese civilian deaths. More Vietnamese died in the famines of 1944-45 under Japanese occupation than Japanese civilian deaths.

With these peripheral facts, I just cannot fault Truman's decision. For something to be wrong I would have to done something differently, and I don't think I would have. Even in retrospect, putting Alperovitz's research aside, there's little to change. The Americans could have signalled better than the Emperor's position within the new constitutional order would be preserved, but
even Truman was operating within policy limits of his government and political base.
posted by @troy at 8:29 PM on June 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


intentional targeting of civilians in a methodical or industrialized way is less than 75 years old

The events of of 1940-45 in Europe -- including the setting aside of the Hague Conventions regarding bombardment -- almost literally bled over into the Asian theatre, regardless of the actual Japanese-committed atrocities there since Japan was an ardent supporter of Germany and had thrown their lot in with them.

In a war of national survival with modern technology, prudence dictates to each combatant to prosecute the war as fully and brutally as possible until the other side surrenders to terms.

FWIW, the events in Vietnam did not escalate to that level, though I do think that the US bombing campaign was increasingly morally suspect in its indifference to civilian casualties and overly broad categorization of civilian infrastructure as targetable.
posted by @troy at 8:40 PM on June 28, 2009


The casualty rates are not the same. Radiation sickness continues to kill long after the initial blast. The health system is far more stressed, rescue and rebuilding is much more difficult.

Even with the long-term casualties of the atomic bombs factored in, conventional bombing of cities in Japan killed more people.

For any number of nuclear deaths you come up with, at least in the context of WWII, it was within easy reach (logistically) to kill as many with non-nuclear weapons. One of the strongest arguments against a blockade of the home islands was that 100,000 a month were or would be starving to death. A three month blockade would kill more Japanese than the bombs, and arguably much more cruelly insofar as it was slow.
posted by fatbird at 8:45 PM on June 28, 2009


All who thought this wouldn't turn into an argument about whether the bomb was right, and whether total war is OK, and include a mention of Gen. Sherman, etc., please raise your hands.

Thanks for the post anyway. Seriously.
posted by raysmj at 8:45 PM on June 28, 2009 [5 favorites]


So I just finished reading THE MAKING OF THE ATOMIC BOMB by Richard Rhodes. I'm not in a position to vouch for its scholarship, but it, and he, won a raft of awards and grants, so it's worth consideration at least. There are over 200 pages of bibliography - noone seems to be challenging its veracity. I will say, at least, it is a thought-provoking read.

One thing that really set me back was that I discovered that everyone had a nuclear program. The Germans had a nuclear program. the British had a nuclear program, the Russians had a nuclear program, the Japanese had a nuclear program. The Germans were forcing the Finns to make heavy water for them, at gunpoint (and some heroic Finns sunk their own vessels and citizens in order to sabotage the Nazi effort.) French nuclear scientists were conscripted to work for the Nazis. Neils Bohr was under pressure to produce for the Nazis, and the only reason Fermi ended up building a reactor in Chicago is that he was lucky and smart enough to get out at the very last minute -oh, and that he married a Jew. When the allies came through, they were a few days or hours ahead of the Russians in discovering a working Nazi heavy-water reactor.

My conclusion is that its easy to second-guess from a historical perspective, but in the moment, noone knew how it was going to turn out (least of all Harry Truman, walking onstage at the end of act III), and it very easily could have gone a bad bad other way. Imagine a Europe held hostage by a Nazi bomb paired with V2 rockets. Imagine a Pacific theater ruled by nuclear kamakazi. The fact that the Japanese were even willing to debate the possibility of surrender after Hiroshima is a big datapoint.

Having said that, yes, Hiroshima and Nagasaki were atrocities on the grandest scale. Now I have to ask where all the people willing to pour so much energy into debating this decision, fifty years back, are when the discussion turns to non-proliferation issues. Too boring for you? Not enough cartoons?
posted by newdaddy at 9:02 PM on June 28, 2009 [5 favorites]


intentional targeting of civilians in a methodical or industrialized way is less than 75 years old

Kokuryu, what does this sentence mean? Methodical targeting of civilians is very old- maybe as old as people have been fighting. From modern (-ish) history, Europeans certainly did it to indigenous Americans. Russians did it to Central Asians (and probably others). I'm not sure how industrialized it was, but it was as industrialized as they could figure out at the time.
posted by small_ruminant at 9:21 PM on June 28, 2009


The Germans were forcing the Finns to make heavy water for them, at gunpoint (and some heroic Finns sunk their own vessels and citizens in order to sabotage the Nazi effort.

Norwegians, actually.

Imagine a Pacific theater ruled by nuclear kamakazi.

The administration did have the Fugu balloon bomb program as demonstration of Japanese will, and, of course, also its relative incapacity, to launch retributive attacks on North America.

There are alternative scenarios, where Truman publically announces we have the bomb and either demonstrates it or otherwise gives time for the Japanese to fully internalize this new state of inferiority.

Given what we know now this would have been more humane, but at the time it was certainly not militarily or politically necessary nor particularly advisable. The USAAF had the demonstrated ability to turn Hiroshima into ashes with just as much human suffering in a week of conventional bombing, yet the Japanese fought on. Talking about superbombs may very well not have resulted in diplomatic progress, and every week the war ground on thousands died regardless.

I just blame the Japanese militarists. They were in the wrong, entirely. Once Saipan was lost and the USAAF B-29s were moved there, they should have acknowledged their incapability to defend the homeland and surrender to our terms.
posted by @troy at 9:38 PM on June 28, 2009


Methodical targeting of civilians is very old- maybe as old as people have been fighting.

"The residents of Dresden and Hiroshima in 1945 suffered no worse fate than the citizens of Babylon in 680 BC, when the city fell to Sennacherib of Assyria, who boasted:
"I levelled this city and its houses from the foundation to the top, I destroyed them, and I consumed them with fire. I tore down and removed the outer and the inner walls, the temples and ziggurats built of brick, and dumped the rubble in the Arahtu canal. And after I destroyed Babylon, smashed its gods and massacred its population, I tore up its soil and threw it into the Euphrates so that it was carried by the river down to the sea."
"It was a more labour-intensive method of destruction than nuclear weapons, but the effect (at least for an individual city) was about the same."

-- Gwynn Dyer -- War: The Lethal Custom.
posted by empath at 9:51 PM on June 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


"The residents of Dresden and Hiroshima in 1945 suffered no worse fate than the citizens of Babylon in 680 BC, when the city fell to Sennacherib of Assyria, who boasted...

Except that the survivors didn't have to deal with ongoing health issues, and their children were born largely free or deformities.

The fact that it would have saved many more lived is really moot. Japan was on it knees, and there were the murmurings or peace overtures from the war cabinet. Japan was surrounded, and was being starved into submission.

Great power projection was the real reason the bomb was dropped- and as an experiment- The candidate cities were kept free of the mass bombings that devastated Tokyo and Kobe - purely to assess the effects of the bomb. The US knew early in 44 that it was going to bomb Japan- it was not done as something that HAD to happen. To say otherwise is really just trying to assuage guilt.
posted by mattoxic at 10:25 PM on June 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


and there were the murmurings or peace overtures from the war cabinet.

These murmurings weren't coming from the militarists who held power. The militarists were busy slicing domestic defeatists up. The Army was institutional incapable of going along with surrender. They preferred death. The Navy had shot their wad already and come up short, and many of them, having a more internationalist outlook than the parochial Army, were willing to work toward a peace solution, but the national psyche was really fucked up by then.

The time for "murmurings" was 1944 when the Japanese Navy was utterly destroyed as a fleet in being in two separate engagements, Japan's inner perimeter pierced in the Marianas, and its access to Indonesia lost with the Philippines. By July 1945 we had already levelled 85% of the Japanese built-up areas, killed hundreds of thousands of civilians, and announced at Potsdam that the only alternative for Japan if it continued to resist was "prompt and utter destruction".

Great power projection was the real reason the bomb was dropped

Debatable. The US was already the world colossus in 1945. Nobody came close. The superbomb was nice to have in pocket but we already had HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS of front-line military aircraft, the pilots to fly them, and the fuel and armaments to make them a threat. If Stalin wanted to mix it up with the US we could have taken him out by Christmas.

it was not done as something that HAD to happen. To say otherwise is really just trying to assuage guilt.

I agree with this, with the proviso that separating the atomic bombings from the previous firebombing campaign is a mistake of understanding of the situation of 1945. LeMay had won the argument that a Japanese civilian's life wasn't worth spit in 1945.

FWIW, I tend to think that both the Russian entry and the bombings were necessary to bring the militarists to accede to surrender. They still had millions of troops on the continent and some hope of "holding out" there, however last-ditch insane that might have been. Once Stalin closed off that route the Japanese were put in a truly, truly, hopeless situation.
posted by @troy at 12:31 AM on June 29, 2009


I very briefly met a Hiroshima survivor at work, totally unexpectedly. He had no visible scars or other readily apparent physical injuries. I was struck by how open and smiling he was while I was being informed of the fact that he was at Hiroshima when the bomb fell. He seemed to get a kick out of my predictable bugged eyes and jaw drop.
posted by exogenous at 5:37 AM on June 29, 2009


Debatable. The US was already the world colossus in 1945. Nobody came close.

The Soviet Union was a massive power by war's end- and supremely confident. The US and western allies were stretched and the public was war weary. The Soviets were on a roll, and
after the fall of Germany had joined the attack on Japan. The western allies were dismayed at the USSR's conquest of eastern Europe, and did not want the same thing happening in the pacific.

What better way to say STOP than demonstrate new nuclear capability. The bomb was aimed at Stalin probably more so than the Japanese.
posted by mattoxic at 6:29 AM on June 29, 2009


Guys, we're arguing over the wrong thing here.

Whether or not dropping the bomb was justifies is completely irrelevant to this discussion.

Yes, the Japanese committed horrible atrocities during World War 2. Yes, the Japanese revisionist history movement is among the most blatant of any in world history. Yes, the leaders of Japan were not going to surrender and many more soldiers would have died without dropping the bomb.

The point here is that these pictures are incredibly powerful and moving. Regardless of the context of dropping the bomb in August of 1945, it's important for present and future citizens and world leaders to realize the consequences of using such weapons in the future.
posted by WhySharksMatter at 9:17 AM on June 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


United States Strategic Bombing Survey: Summary Report (Pacific War):
There is little point in attempting precisely to impute Japan's unconditional surrender to any one of the numerous causes which jointly and cumulatively were responsible for Japan's disaster. The time lapse between military impotence and political acceptance of the inevitable might have been shorter had the political structure of Japan permitted a more rapid and decisive determination of national policies. Nevertheless, it seems clear that, even without the atomic bombing attacks, air supremacy over Japan could have exerted sufficient pressure to bring about unconditional surrender and obviate the need for invasion.

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 in all probability prior to 1 November 1945, Japan would have surrendered even if the atomic bombs had not been dropped, even if Russia had not entered the war, and even if no invasion had been planned or contemplated.
Soviet advances from 1 January 1945 to 7 May 1945
posted by kirkaracha at 9:22 AM on June 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


No link to "Threads" on Google Video yet?
posted by Pliskie at 9:54 AM on June 29, 2009


Yes, the Japanese revisionist history movement is among the most blatant of any in world history.

Citations, please.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:16 AM on June 29, 2009


These pictures are incredibly moving on a human level.
posted by mazola at 2:08 PM on June 29, 2009


Are you really going to have this debate again?

This argument will never be solved, but no matter what side of the fence you're on, everyone will agree the atomic bombs were an absolute horror. I doubt very much that American soldiers on the ground in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the aftermath were delighted with what they saw.

These paintings remind us that we should never do this ever again.
posted by bwg at 4:52 PM on June 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


Are you really going to have this debate again?

Happens every time there's a Mefi post that's in any way related to the atomic bombing of Japan, and presto, happened again this time. It'll happen again next time, too.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:01 PM on June 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


War is mass murder sanctioned by all participants. But people do what they feel they have to do in the moment, and sometimes they do horrible things to each other.

Then they look at the horror and say, 'never again.' They say, 'we'll find a different way.'

But life goes on and people forget.

There is only one good thing about the mind-bending destruction wrought when those bombs were dropped: this will take longer to forget. People may be just as capable of horrible acts, but those bombs made an unmistakable imprint on our civilization.

Last time I was in Hiroshima, the monuments and museum were teeming with children, of various ages, mostly in school uniforms. They were running around and playing and up to mischief when teachers' backs were turned. They were picnicking under the trees, munching on their finger foods and feeding the pigeons. Classes were having their photos taken, with broad happy smiles in the soft November sunlight, in front of the 'Atomic Bomb Dome.'

My friends took a similar photo of themselves. I stood back and watched all the people going about their lives, as I had the whole day, and tried not to be sick.
posted by zennie at 6:45 PM on June 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Are you really going to have this debate again?

Happens every time there's a Mefi post that's in any way related to the atomic bombing of Japan, and presto, happened again this time. It'll happen again next time, too.


This is b/c the majority of posters here are from the country that dropped the bomb.
posted by stinkycheese at 11:09 AM on June 30, 2009


And yet, fatbird is Canadian (or based there, anyway), and I'm American. Go figure.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 11:15 AM on June 30, 2009


Am I wrong, Marisa? I'm not saying every single person from any one country feels any one way about anything. I live in Canada, yet find hockey really boring. Shock.

I doubt very much you'd see this stupid "dropping nukes on Japanese cities, right or wrong?" argument break out in every thread on the atomic bombings of Japan if Metafilter membership were composed primarily of, say, Italians.

Metafilter has numerable blind spots b/c of its membership overwhelmingly being from the U.S. This thread is a perfect example of that. I'm just saying it out loud.
posted by stinkycheese at 1:25 PM on June 30, 2009


Yeah, the biggest apologists are Americans, no surprises there. Just saying it's not a hard and fast rule.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 1:34 PM on June 30, 2009


I completely agree.
posted by stinkycheese at 1:35 PM on June 30, 2009


The bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki stand as preeminently nightmarish acts of modern warfare and world history: horrible, gruesome and apocalyptic events that many Americans, with their deep-seated and reflexive need to feel good about their nation and 'way of life' (to be, essentially, the really truly good people on the planet) have a hard time swallowing.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 3:50 PM on June 30, 2009


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