Join 3,557 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


You dropped a bomb on me...
July 18, 2001 3:12 PM   Subscribe

You dropped a bomb on me... The movie "Above & Beyond" was on TCM last night. It is about Col Paul Tibbets, the pilot of the Enola Gay, which dropped the first atomic bomb. Surprise: Col Tibbets is still alive, making appearances & speeches. What do you think goes through his mind when he recalls that fateful day? Would YOU have been able to drop the bomb that ended World War II?
posted by davidmsc (92 comments total)

 
I can't imagine, but if he thinks of himself as the heroic figure that that website seems to imply, then that's a little pathetic and sad. He flew a mission where there was little personal danger, he pushed a button, and hundreds of civilians died. At the most he's a messenger boy, at the worst...


"the bomb that ended World War II"

Just to set the record straight...

WWII was ending with our without the Enola Gay, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki. There is little dispute over this. The debate on whether the dropping of the bombs was justified usually turns on the, heavily disputed, number of American military lives that were supposedly saved by the war ending, some indeterminate amount of time, earier than it would have without the bombings.

Japan had already signaled its openess to a conditional surrender, but the U.S. wanted unconditional surrender. Which, of course, it got.

There has been much speculation that the real U.S. intent behind the bombings was to intimidate our Russian allies by providing graphic evidence that 1) we really had sucessfully developed an atomic weapon and 2) how incredibly destructive the weapon actually was.

The purported U.S. purpose of intimidating Japan into an early surrender could have been accomplished just as easily by detonating a single bomb in an uninhabited area or over the ocean at a safe distance from one of Japan's major cities. "Please lay down your weapons or the next one gets delivered to Tokyo."

Our dropping the bomb seems to have been more about flexing our muscles to impress and intimidate than with any necessary military strategy.

We view the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor (a military target) with disdain and call it an immoral act, but we hail the "technological genius" of the scientists involved with the creation of the bomb and excuse Hiroshima and Nagasaki (civilian targets of little military significance) as "unavoidable" and "necessary."

We remain the single and only country to detonate a nuclear weapon in an act of agression. So much for war crimes.
posted by edlark at 4:01 PM on July 18, 2001


And not to get too anal about it, but it was the bombardier that actually dropped the thing. The aged Colonel's role was little more than steering straight and level for a few moments.

edlark: whether or not the war was already ending, Fat Man and Little Boy truly were the bombs that ended WWII. Additionally, irregardless of whether or not high-up brass in the military knew Pearl Harbor was coming, there's a huge difference in my mind between a surprise attack to initiate war and one to end it. I'm also not sure who this "we" that you refer to is, but personally I feel that both sides did some pretty shitty things in WWII, but it was the allies that were stopping megalomaniacs from taking over the world. Unavoidable and necessary, maybe not, but the war did end.

I don't want to come across as saying "better them than us," but I can't imagine that if we hadn't dropped those two bombs nobody else would have since then. I'd rather it be two relatively small blasts to end a war than a hundred larger blasts to start one
posted by OneBallJay at 4:33 PM on July 18, 2001


"Would YOU have been able to drop the bomb that ended World War II?" Yeah, sure thing.
posted by semmi at 4:52 PM on July 18, 2001


Tibbets led a life of relative obscurity, until the Smithsonian's controversial atomic bomb exhibit about a decade ago. For approaching this historical event neutrally and critically, the curators were lambasted, effectively hanged in effigy for treason. Veterans groups were furious, wannabe-veterans even more so. At this time a number of them started inviting him around and giving him ad hoc hero's medals.

Apparently, alas, asking open-ended questions about an historical event is verboten in our modern society; merely asking whether there were alternatives "insults" the people whose lives were ostensibly saved. (The logic escapes me.) Our official museums may not act as institutions of academia, but as propaganda forums for the official story. The only story the Smithsonian would be permitted to tell is the one approved by the United States Air Force.

20 years ago, in a college forum, I argued that the use of one bomb first on a more objectively military target such as an atoll airbase would have a) possibly persuaded the Japanese we were serious, b) allowed us to spend the next half-century at least telling ourselves we tried to settle it less lethally. As it is we've had to spend a half-century justifying ourselves as the only country ever to use nuclear weapons, while nurturing an image of ourselves as the just and fair superpower who would never, ever resort to a nuclear first strike (even while public NATO doctrine showed otherwise).

I hold no ill will toward Tibbets; I don't even begrudge him his honors. I would never go so far as to characterize the bombing as a war crime, rather as a distasteful though perhaps necessary act. But it's rather sad and pathetic that we're not even permitted to have a public debate about the bombing, if only to decide what we do next time.

I would not have been able to drop such a bomb directly on a city. I couldn't imagine the burden of carrying that memory for the rest of my life.
posted by dhartung at 4:54 PM on July 18, 2001


He flew a mission where there was little personal danger

There was serious question about whether the plane itself would be able to escape the blast from the bomb it dropped (never mind the fact that they had to fly unescorted over enemy territory at the significant risk of being, um, shot down). Doing something that the most respected experts of the day believe will bring a very quick end a very bloody war (and, um, it did) even though you and all around you believe that there is a good chance you might die in the attempt sounds like a heroic act to me.

Please, don't slander people who have purposefully put their lives on the line to defend your right to slander them. It makes you look more pathetic than you claim them to be and distracts from the seriousness of the points you make.
posted by dchase at 5:03 PM on July 18, 2001


The Rush song manhattan project always gave me chills... "

Imagine a man
When it all began
The pilot of "Enola Gay"
Flying out of the shockwave
On that August day
All the powers that be
And the course of history
Would be changed for evermore...
"
posted by revbrian at 5:05 PM on July 18, 2001


He flew a mission where there was little personal danger, he pushed a button, and hundreds of civilians died. At the most he's a messenger boy, at the worst...

We know that NOW, that was not as much of a sure thing at the time as you seem to imply. It is quite easy to sit in front of your computer 55+ years later and say it was easy, I'm sure it felt quite different to those who actually had to perform the mission.

We view the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor (a military target) with disdain and call it an immoral act, but we hail the "technological genius" of the scientists involved with the creation of the bomb and excuse Hiroshima and Nagasaki (civilian targets of little military significance) as "unavoidable" and "necessary."

One was a "sneak attack" performed while our countries were ostensibly at peace, the other at a point where the Japanese posture was to fight to the last even if it meant civilians with pitchforks. Considering that the Russians lost over 300,000 soldiers just in the taking of Berlin there was ample reason at the time to feel that the use of the atomic bomb was justified.

Once again, it is easy to look back and be critical but realize that you have access to information now that was not available to those making decisions at the time. Sorry, but it was a war. There is no good or bad until someone wins and decides what the rules SHOULD have been. The Japanese were fighting a war of aggression and were treated accordingly. They showed little to no mercy for those whom they conquered, especially in Nanking and the Phillipeans, and were shown no mercy in return. Given access to nuclear weaponry their military would not have hesitated to use it immediately to it's fullest effect.

In the end, it is history. Second guessing the decision really isn't a productive process, learning from the result is the most we can hope to accomplish.
posted by RevGreg at 5:07 PM on July 18, 2001


Would YOU have been able to drop the bomb that ended World War II?

Maybe, but I'd probably have to drop one on New York and San Francisco as well just to be fair.
posted by lagado at 5:12 PM on July 18, 2001


Leonard Cheshire was the British observer at the Nagasaki bombing. The experience contributed to his conversion to Catholicism: three years later, he set up the first "Cheshire home" to provide residential care for the terminally ill. Even after his death, the charity he founded continues to thrive, providing care and opportunities for the disabled.

Whatever you think of the ethics of its use, the fact that the US remains the only state to use nuclear weaponry should at least bestow a historical weight upon its leaders. Particularly given that it has never been subject to civilian bombardment itself in the modern era.
posted by holgate at 5:22 PM on July 18, 2001


"irregardless" is not a word.

Should we have dropped the bomb?

I believe it saved the lives of the people that the bomb-droppers wanted to save.

"Drop that fucker. Drop it twice."
--Gene Hackman, Crimson Tide
posted by o2b at 5:24 PM on July 18, 2001


One was a "sneak attack" performed while our countries were ostensibly at peace

While enforcing a blockade of raw materials and fossil fuels, not really a peaceful peace. An attack was probably not entirely unexpected.
posted by lagado at 5:25 PM on July 18, 2001


He flew a mission where there was little personal danger, he pushed a button, and hundreds of civilians died...

The aged Colonel's role was little more than steering straight and level for a few moments.


He did much more than that. 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 (edlark's protests to the contrary) 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. (This is a good thing, people)

...if he thinks of himself as the heroic figure that that website seems to imply, then that's a little pathetic and sad.

Au contraire. He is, indeed, a hero. And thank you, dchase, for your words.
posted by davidmsc at 5:49 PM on July 18, 2001


edlark posts:

WWII was ending with our without the Enola Gay, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki. There is little dispute over this. The debate on whether the dropping of the bombs was justified usually turns on the, heavily disputed, number of American military lives that were supposedly saved by the war ending, some indeterminate amount of time, earier than it would have without the bombings.

Little dispute? Ever talked to anyone that actually fought in that theater? My wife's grandfather was on the Missouri when it steamed into the Japan for the surrender. The Japanese were told to place a white flag on each gun in the harbor - and according to Ernie, there were a LOT of guns. The Japanese were well prepared to die to defend their islands. Just because a bunch of ivory-tower scholars says "not" does not make it true.

Japan had already signaled its openess to a conditional surrender, but the U.S. wanted unconditional surrender. Which, of course, it got.

And deserved. This is the same country that had murdered thousands in China, some in biological warfare experiments. Murdered thousands more elsewhere: Corrigador, The Phillipines, New Guinea and others.

Please note the past tense; I don't hold this hardline attitude towards the Japanese I meet these days. Whoever, I hold in great disdain the armchair quarterbacks who sit in front of their computer screens and declare "Well, it wasn't that dangerous. And they were wrong. Blah blah blah."

No one I know who actually lived through that period of history has any doubts about the necessity of dropping the bomb(s). Those who do are invariably second-guessers who weren't there.

And, a benefit of us dropping the bombs at that time might be the knowledge of just how horrible it is - a lesson we didn't have to learn later on using much dirtier (and more powerful) fusion bombs.

In a nutshell; I'm sorry the nation of Japan brought it on themselves. Embargo or not, that is not an excuse for the horrible crimes they committed against their neighboring nations.

As a sidenote, my father served at Thule airforce base (yes, in Thule, Greenland) with the navigator of the Enola Gay. Dropping the bomb was well known as The Subject That Is Not Discussed.
posted by hadashi at 6:33 PM on July 18, 2001


I say go back and drop another one!
posted by Postroad at 6:42 PM on July 18, 2001


"Japan had already signaled its openess to a conditional surrender, but the U.S. wanted unconditional surrender. Which, of course, it got. "

The US let Japan keep Hirohito. The US wanted to try him on war crimes. And to settle for anything less then an unconditional surrender would have been a comprimise. Wars are not about comprimising. In the end there is a winner, and a loser. Ultimately many millions of soldiers on both sides turned out to be the biggest losers of all. They lost their lives fighting for the politicians.

Maybe you should pry your pasty white scrawny fingers off that keyboard and go try to serve and see what it's like. I did. Got that Ed? Personally I would have fucking tied you to one of the bombs and you could have screamed your pathetic apologies on the way down.

I can't wait to show the printout of this thread to my neighbor across the street. He was in the Airborne during WWII, jumped on D-Day. A lot of the soldiers who were in Europe were scheduled for transfer to the Pacific for the war that still had to be fought for the Japanese islands. Maybe those bombs saved his life. If they did, then they were worth it.
posted by a3matrix at 6:42 PM on July 18, 2001


". . . I knew a single word that proved our democratic government was capable of committing obscene, gleefully rabid and racist, yahooistic murders of unarmed men, women, and children, murders wholly devoid of military common sense. I said the word. It was a foreign word. That word was Nagasaki."

Kurt Vonnegut, Timequake
posted by Optamystic at 6:42 PM on July 18, 2001


Sorry for the dbl post. Connection got screwy.
posted by a3matrix at 6:43 PM on July 18, 2001


IV.
Postdam baby, churchhill stands...he lieaves
Truman half-smile leaning towards
(heyunclejoe)
"...we....ah...got it".
later he decides to
DROP THE DAMN THING
chilly arms from now on.
war die turns too...
memento coin atop manuscripts
that cross reference
semiotic statecraft.
tea leaves
corn silk.

1993.
posted by clavdivs at 6:45 PM on July 18, 2001


fuck groves, i say test it.
posted by clavdivs at 6:53 PM on July 18, 2001


The man is a criminal.

Oh wait — if you kill foreigners who have been deemed enemies of the state, you’re a saint. If you kill Americans, you’re the devil.

Just want to make sure I understand all this radical nationalism posted to the site lately.

dave: 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?

Your hypocrisy is amazing.

You’re saying if the bomb killed Americans, we might look at atomic weapons differently. In fact we might become wary of their power. Certainly that would’ve given the US a better understanding of the power it holds. So far, bombs have only killed people in far-off nations, so the people who used them must be heroes. We should canonize them immediately, instead of preventing the military from doing it again.

And yes, the war would’ve ended without bombing or an invasion. Japan wouldn’t have become a client state, dependent on American defense and aid had the bombs not dropped. The war was over, Japan had lost. Then the bombs fell.

hadashi: Those who do are invariably second-guessers who weren't there.

Or, the former soldiers will believe anything the military tells them if it isn’t the painful truth. Tell me, what do the inside of your eyeballs look like?

a3matrix: Personally I would have fucking tied you to one of the bombs and you could have screamed your pathetic apologies on the way down.

Does the military create rabid, violent nationalists, or do rabid, violent nationalists join the military?
posted by capt.crackpipe at 7:31 PM on July 18, 2001


Maybe you should pry your pasty white scrawny fingers off that keyboard and go try to serve and see what it's like. I did.

My fucking hero.
posted by jpoulos at 7:40 PM on July 18, 2001


Edlark, just to set the record straight: nearly everything you wrote is wrong. The war was not ending without the bomb, and the will to resist was still strong in Japan. There were also other issues involved.

I am currently reading a book on exactly that point, and here it is. I'm about half way through it and it confirms what I already knew: what you're claiming is revisionist nonsense promulgated by anti-nuclear activists. It bears no resemblance to reality.

Go read the book. Or shut up about things you don't really know anything about.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 7:47 PM on July 18, 2001


To echo Steven Den Beste, the war was by no means over. Say what you will about the morality of the atomic bomb, but the truth is that Fat Man and Little Boy convinced Japan that the US military potential was just too much. Prior to the bombs, the Pentagon had definitive proof that even though Japan knew that they were likely defeated, they planned on fighting to the end, which would have necessitated a massive ground attack on Japanese soil, costing thousands, if not millions, of American lives. The bombs prevented this.

Also in case you don't know, yes, both bombs were necessary. Without Nagasaki to follow up, the evidence for mass-destruction potential wasn't enough, just like publicized tests like Trinity weren't real enough to translate to the terms of human lives.

For more reading, the best book on the subject is Richard Rhodes' Pulitzer Prize-winning The Making of the Atomic Bomb.
posted by padjet1 at 8:16 PM on July 18, 2001


Steven Den Beste sends a letter to Howard Zinn: “shut up about things you don't really know anything about.”

“It is a preposterous argument. If they were such fanatics, requiring twenty million Japanese deaths before they could surrender, why did they, in fact, surrender after hundreds of thousands of deaths in Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Clearly, as was concluded by the U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey, which interviewed the Japanese decision-makers right after the war, Japan was on the verge of surrender, and would have done so even without the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.”

I suspect Zinn might say the same back.

Padjet: Are you arguing that unarmed, civilian Japanese had to be the unwitting test subjects to proove America’s military might? Who is not a viable subject in your world?
posted by capt.crackpipe at 8:19 PM on July 18, 2001


I have yet to comprehend how dropping one bomb in one raid and killing thousands of people is worse than dropping thousands of bombs in one raid and killing even more. The firebombing of Hamburg, Dresden, Cologne, Osaka, and Tokyo were just as, if not more, destructive than the attacks on Nagasaki or Hiroshima. But people continue to demonize the use of nukes over incendiaries. I wish they'd be logically consistant.

Personally, I think it is clear that the use of the nukes shortened the war. Japan wanted to surrender only if it got to keep its military and even some of its territorial gains in China. Even after the bombs were dropped, a military junta tried to prevent the Emperor from declaring the unconditional surrender of Japan. Thankfully, the coup was crushed. At any rate, there was no way the destruction of a remote atoll or demonstration of the power of the nuclear weapon would have resulted in Japan's surrender.

More relevant to military considerations, there weren't just a whole lot of them to go around. There were only a few nukes in the pipeline and delivering them to the war zone was a dangerous and uncertain undertaking (see the fate of the Indianapolis after she delivered the nukes to Tinian).

Finally, if you are the President of the U.S. in WW2 and you've seen the bodycounts coming back from Okinawa (7272 killed) and Iwo Jima (6,821 Killed; 19,217 Wounded) what would you do? Send more American soldiers, sailors, and Marines into the meat grinder that would have been Operation Olympic? Or save both American and Japanese lives by dropping the bomb?
posted by CRS at 8:20 PM on July 18, 2001


Didn't the firebombing of Tokyo claim more lives than the two atomic bombs? I believe so.

As I said, the legacy of the US is fairly distinct. It gave the lives of its enlisted and commissioned men, and nothing can repay that debt, or that gratitude. But no cities were bombarded; no civilians lived on air raid warning. And the cultural impact of enduring civilian bombing is something that extended at least to my generation, in the stories told by my grandmothers of being on air raid watch, or of my father playing in the rubble of rows of houses.

And I think that's possibly why Oklahoma City stunned the US so much. Because there's no cultural memory of the Luftwaffe's role as unexpected town planners. And I also think that geographical impermeability informs the missile defence project, in a disturbing way. (That's why I have to disagree with you, davidmsc, about the repercussions of the war in securing the US's position: in spite of the very real sacrifice of its armed forces, I can't help wondering if the world would be in safer hands had its civilians suffered some of that sacrifice.)

They called the Great War "the war to end all wars", but it took the second war to take that kind of conflict from the fields to the homes: to make everything a legitimate target. And I suppose that's my rambling point: that even if it did bring an swift end to the war -- and yes, I think it did -- there's a grim responsibility that comes from flattening cities when your enemy has flattened none of yours.
posted by holgate at 8:20 PM on July 18, 2001


I can't tell you how (a) relieved I am that so many MeFi'ers (relative to an average post) have presented intelligent analysis & reaction to the post, and (b) how scary it is that there are some who honestly believe that we (USA) were wrong.

Summary: Killing is bad. Allowing the world to be raped by totalitarian regimes is worse. In a perfect world, we would never have had to use the A-bomb. But please remember - we did not start the war, on either front. But we (and our Allies) ended it. Decisively. For reasons both noble & selfish (not that the two are mutually exclusive).

And holgate: Point/s taken. Believe me, I give a silent "thank you" periodically to the fact that we are, geographically, lucky. If we had been vulnerable to what England, Germany, Japan, etc, went through, I shudder to think of the many alternate outcomes of WWII.
posted by davidmsc at 8:36 PM on July 18, 2001


"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?"

Yeah, man. A whole lot of civilians might have lived! And imagine all those people without cancer. The results might have been horrific.
posted by Doug at 9:04 PM on July 18, 2001


Also in case you don't know, yes, both bombs were necessary. Without Nagasaki to follow up, the evidence for mass-destruction potential wasn't enough

Could you elaborate on this point a little more. The time between the first and second bombs being dropped (3 days) is IMHO not long enough to allow a country to come around from a position of wanting to continue fighting to one of unconditional surrender (especially if opinions were divided amongst its leaders/military).

I am certainly open to the idea that the first bomb was an attempt to finish the war in a manner that would reduce casualties, but surely dropping a second bomb so quickly can only be interpreted as a display of power (be that as a message to Russia or the world in general).
posted by urban greeting at 9:35 PM on July 18, 2001


he's a hero. a hero for US Citizens. not anyone else.

Metafilter is getting to be like watching Star Trek shows.
posted by greyscale at 10:38 PM on July 18, 2001


OH. And YES, I would drop a bomb to end WORLD WAR. There are a few things worth killing for: threatening my existence and my freedoms are 2. Mess with my neice and nephew makes 4. Messing with the freedoms of my fellow US Citizens makes at least a few million.
posted by greyscale at 10:46 PM on July 18, 2001


"it was the allies that were stopping megalomaniacs from taking over the world"

But we didn't bomb the megalomaniacs, we bombed their civilian population.


"This is the same country that had murdered thousands in China, some in biological warfare experiments. Murdered thousands more elsewhere: Corrigador, The Phillipines, New Guinea and others."

I'm not defending the Japanese government or their actions during WWII. I'm disapproving of a policy decision made by our government and military leaders. Do you, as a citizen of the United States want to be held morally culpable for every action by the U.S. government? (Think of the Tuskeegee experiments, Japanese Internment, or our own illegal bombing or Laos and Cambodia) The Japanese government was wrong, so was ours.


"No one I know who actually lived through that period of history has any doubts about the necessity of dropping the bomb(s). Those who do are invariably second-guessers who weren't there."

Sheep-dip! (As my grandfather would say.) He served in WWII as well - European theater, one of those grunts you see in the black and whites marching into a newly liberated Paris. He was just about the furthest thing you could get from a left-winger (being a gun-toting, cattle-ranching, geezer from Wyoming has that effect on you). He didn't have much love for Japanese people either, but he thought that the bombings were wrong. Lots of people had doubts - about the bombings even about the whole war. Read Stud's Terkel's "The Good War" or Howard Zinn's "People's History of the United States."

Look, as far as Paul Tibbett's goes, I have no idea what he thinks about the bombing and have nothing against the guy personally. He was a soldier and he followed orders. My point was rhetorical, and I was simply saying that to have been a part of something so pivotal and controversial in the history of the United States would tend, I would hope, to lend a person to at least some introspection and doubt. Remember that Oppenheimer himself became one of the most vocal opponents to nuclear arms and publicly stated that the attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki had been mistakes.

The war was already coming to a close. Did the bombings save American lives? Probably, at least some. Was the use of atomic bombs necessary to secure an unconditional surrender from the Japanese? Perhaps. I don't know - and anyone who says they are sure one way or the other is blowing smoke. Does the end justify the means in this case? Again, I don't know. However, the means in this case were not only brutal, but indiscriminate (not confined to military targets and personnel) and long-term (radiation poisoning from the bombs not only continued to kill Japanese men, women and children after the event, but residual radiation continued to cause birth defects and cancer well long after the Japanese had become our allies). How many Japanese children born with birth defects equals one U.S. soldier's life?

Where the U.S. crossed the line in my book is using the bombs on civilian targets. As dhart said above, if a military target had been chosen the bombing would have been much easier to justify. The German firebombing of London was, rightly, attacked as an atrocity because of its effect on civilians and nonmilitary targets. Why should we hold ourselves to a lower standard?

THEY commit atrocities. WE do what's necessary.


"Maybe you should pry your pasty white scrawny fingers off that keyboard and go try to serve and see what it's like. I did. Got that Ed? Personally I would have fucking tied you to one of the bombs and you could have screamed your pathetic apologies on the way down."

I can't tell you how warm and fuzzy it makes me feel to know that individuals of such high caliber as yourself are defending our inherent freedoms. I personally am quite grateful to those men and women who have fought and died defending my right to be a "pasty fingered" "whiner" and for a3matrix to be an idiot.


"The soldier above all others prays for peace, for it is the soldier who must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war." - General Douglas MacArthur
posted by edlark at 10:56 PM on July 18, 2001


[Where the U.S. crossed the line in my book is using the bombs on civilian targets.]

We did the same thing in germany too. War is hell.
posted by revbrian at 11:06 PM on July 18, 2001


Didn't this happen a long long time ago? Like before most of us were born?
posted by greyscale at 11:07 PM on July 18, 2001


So did the Crucifiction of Christ, but people insist on telling me about that every day. (Apologies to Bill Hicks...)
posted by Optamystic at 11:17 PM on July 18, 2001


Being chinese. I would have dropped as many bombs as I had access to, then and now.
posted by Jongo at 11:22 PM on July 18, 2001


Phillipeans, Corrigador, The Phillipines

Yeesh, people, learn how to spell. The country is spelled "Philippines" and the place spelled "Corregidor."

That said, to me, this is the most frightening thread I've read in a really long time.

Please don't try to justify the sanctioned murder of civilians in Nagasaki and Hiroshima by invoking the long list of Japanese atrocities in the Philippines; two wrongs don't make a right.

Using the death and suffering of one nation as an excuse to cause death and suffering to the people of another is ignorant and disrespectful, and most of all, pathetic.
posted by lia at 12:01 AM on July 19, 2001


You all have made very good points here.

What it comes down to is that the US believed that by deliberately targeting hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians they would end a terrible war.

Their's was not the first or only cynical war crime of WWII.

What annoys me more is the people who spend their lives chasing war criminals into the grave while refusing to accept that anybody other than the enemy can commit one.

The British invented the Concentration Camp (Tasmania was the first I believe).
The allies fire-bombed German cities.
Our enemies in that war retaliated and worse.

Tibbets should not be proud. None of us should.
posted by nico at 2:19 AM on July 19, 2001


Q:
> Would YOU have been able to drop the bomb that
> ended World War II?
A:
> Being chinese. I would have dropped as many bombs
> as I had access to, then and now.

That war hasn't ended.

About the Bomb. Or Bombs. They ended no war, they just came at a temporary break in warring for many people.

> We did the same thing in germany too. War is hell.

Are you sure you're an ordained minister? I don't know if that there Jesus feller they talk about would have been so flippant about the loss of life, "civilian" or otherwise. (Who is civilian when everyone is required to fight or die?)

----------------------------------
As for:
> "irregardless" is not a word.
and
> Yeesh, people, learn how to spell. The country is
> spelled "Philippines" and the place spelled "Corregidor."
I like people who like good English.

And as for
> So did the Crucifiction of Christ...
Was that an accidental misspelling or a new way (to me, anyway) for someone to proclaim religious doubt?

posted by pracowity at 2:22 AM on July 19, 2001


I can't tell you how warm and fuzzy it makes me feel to know that individuals of such high caliber as yourself are defending our inherent freedoms.

Probably because the smart folks won't bother to because they're too busy going to university, earning money and living it up on "Civvy Street".

I don't agree with Fat Man and Little Boy getting dropped, although I can see why they were - to prevent the slaughter of the GIs that would have invaded.

I think they should have sent the invasion. Thousands of dead soldiers, is, to my mind, better than thousands of unarmed civilians.

Soldiers are sort of meant to die anyway - it's their job, if it comes down to it.
posted by tomcosgrave at 2:32 AM on July 19, 2001


I strongly believe that an unconditional surrender was our only chance. When you have unarmed Japanese willingly charging beacheads in the name of the holy emperor, unconditional surrender becomes the last hope.

Neither Nagasaki or Hiroshima were sneak attacks. Warning pamphlets were distributed through the cities much as they were to Italian troops. They told the public to either depose their current government or leave the cities (which by the way, was a very crafty decision by the Allies).

We still have problems coming to grips with this situation, but so do the Japanese. Find a native Japanese and ask them abvout the Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere. Most likely they will say "Huh?". At least we have owned up to our crimes against humanity.

We might ahve had internment camps in the U.S., but so did every otyer Allied country. We did not have forced labor (ala the Geramans forcing the Eastern Europeans and the Japanese kidnapping Koreans for work on the Solomon Islands).

Japan was preparing for a genocide that would have been even greater that that happening in Europe. We still don't even have reliable numbers for testing through waterborne illnesses and the Rape of Nanking.

For anyone interested in this, and excellent book is 'Japan at War' by Cook. It gives an interesting, yet disturbing look at the war from the viewpoint of Japanese soldiers and civilians.
posted by ttrendel at 2:32 AM on July 19, 2001


I really think that the Philippines had little to do with it. They were simply an oasis of oil for Japan after their U.S. supply was cut off. The slaughter of the Chinese are the main issues on that front.

two wrongs don't make a right

Neither does 1, 3, 4, 5 , 6 , 7 , 8 ,9, or anything else. This statement is a crutch for anyone attempting to make an invalid pint. It is illogical and therefore invalid.
posted by ttrendel at 2:42 AM on July 19, 2001


I'm curious about something - a number of years ago I watched a documentary on BBC2 (very probably a BBC co-production with the Chicago PBS station that also co-make Horizon/Nova - WFMU?) that was based on transcripts of White House meetings. As I recall it suggested that:

a) The main sticking point was whether the Japanese got to retain Hirohito. Otherwise the surrender was almost complete.

b) Their prime motivation was to scare Stalin (which they did successfully) and while they were at it to find out what these nifty new weapons did exactly.

Both points make perfect sense to me.

Just a TV documentary, not the Word of God. And I'm sure that a perceived lily-livered liberal bias will be enthuiastically jumped upon. But still, where might they have got these ideas from?
posted by Grangousier at 2:45 AM on July 19, 2001


As an intersesting side note, Osaka was never touched by the widespread bombings. Why? Because the then secretary of state (sorry, no name) had spent time there and seen the beauty of the city.

If only Dresden had been so lucky.
posted by ttrendel at 2:45 AM on July 19, 2001


"War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things; the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feelings, which thinks that nothing is worth war, is much worse.
A man who has nothing for which he is willing to fight; nothing he cares about more than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself." - John Stuart Mill


My father was a 17 year old BAR gunner in a Sea Bee unit that was making it's way into the Pacific theater when the bombs were dropped. He ended up spending time as part of the occupation forces and visited Nagasaki while he was there and he is still convinced that Truman made the correct decision.

Make all the assertions that Japan had already lost the war before the bombs were dropped that you want. Germany technically had lost the European war 2 years before they were defeated, how many deaths did it it take on BOTH sides to end it? Well over five TIMES the number of people killed in both nuclear blasts died just in the taking of Berlin in defense of a nation that had "already lost."

If you want to accuse the Allies of atrocities, try something more hideous. The Dresden fire bombing was a systematic slaughter of civilians and refugees in an "open" city that had no military significance whatsoever and was well known to be a refugee and hospital center. More people died in Dresden than in both nuclear attacks combined, yet it's odd how nobody seems to even remember them. It doesn't surprise me that someone quoted Kurt Vonnegut above, as he was being held as a prisoner of war in Dresden at the time of the bombings and witnessed the horror that was wrought there...
posted by RevGreg at 4:00 AM on July 19, 2001



RevGreg, buddy, learn how to preview and close your frigging tags.

At least we have owned up to our crimes against humanity.

Really? Your average American knows about as much about US atrocities in the Philippines during the American Occupation as the average Japanese knows about the Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere.

And then there's the wondrous thing formerly known as the School of the Americas.

I really think that the Philippines had little to do with it.

No shit, Sherlock. I never said I did either -- anyone who thinks the US Government makes decisions based on anything other than self-interest (like, say, concern for the well-being of others) is naive.

This statement is a crutch for anyone attempting to make an invalid pint. It is illogical and therefore invalid.

An invalid pint? When did we start talking about Guinness?
posted by lia at 4:11 AM on July 19, 2001


>> two wrongs don't make a right
>
> Neither does 1, 3, 4, 5 , 6 , 7 , 8 ,9, or anything else.
> This statement is a crutch for anyone attempting to
> make an invalid pint. It is illogical and therefore invalid.

First of all, no pint is invalid. I could use one now.

But my main point is that she's right if she's saying that murder does not negate murder, that roasting one baby does not resurrect a previously roasted baby. In that sense, she's absolutely correct and moral. You must not punish a government or an army by roasting alive the children of politicians and soldiers. Even if you want revenge and you believe revenge is moral, you cannot morally avenge a murder by killing someone other than the murderer.

Someone could argue, perhaps, that "two wrongs don't make a right" is begging the question because it asserts that Act A was one of two wrongs to support the argument that Act A was wrong. I suspect that most people here believe that both collective acts (the "murder of civilians in Nagasaki and Hiroshima" and the "Japanese atrocities in the Philippines") were wrong, but if you don't agree that civilian deaths in the bombed cities were murder, then ...

Oh, this is a tedious argument I'm having with myself. I'll leave it to others to take up if they care, and just note that I agree with lia whether or not she has tripped over a root in the logical forest.
posted by pracowity at 4:31 AM on July 19, 2001


Think about the bombing as euthanasia for a very sick and twisted people. Two wrongs don't make a right, but they do make the wronged side feel a lot better.
posted by Jongo at 4:58 AM on July 19, 2001


pracowity: Bingo. Merci bien.
posted by lia at 5:00 AM on July 19, 2001


How about this bit of cod-Freudian speculation: that the awful, drawn-out operation in Vietnam was, in essence, a long-delayed enactment of that unfought ground war in Japan? I'm playing counterfactual historian here, but I can't imagine that the excursus in Indo-China would have been politically feasible, had US forces endured the same attritional conflict less than 20 years earlier...
posted by holgate at 5:12 AM on July 19, 2001


anyone who thinks the US Government makes decisions based on anything other than self-interest (like, say, concern for the well-being of others) is naive.

right on, lia.

This statement is a crutch for anyone attempting to make an invalid pint. It is illogical and therefore invalid.


posted by lagado at 5:15 AM on July 19, 2001


I'm always too late.

Like now. Not because I have no salient points to make, but because as someone pointed out to me in a letter, there's poison in the well and it's hard to imagine anyone drinking from it at this point, with all the insults and jingoism and in some cases, knee-jerk liberalism being thrown about.

Yes, he said knee-jerk liberalism. The world spins.

World War II was the tail end of a kind of cannibalism, as mankind spasmed in a war that lasted from 1914 to 1945. There was a twenty year cease fire, from 1918 to 1932 or so, that only existed to give each side a chance to rearm and renew their desire to fight. Some of the partners changed sides. Others resisted their participation. Still others flung themselves into greedy acquisition of land (Ethiopia, Manchuria, the Sudentenland) that would have barely been sneezed at had it happened in the previous century (the Boer War, Hong Kong, the Spanish-American War) but which was, as it always has been, a tragedy for those poor bastards caught in the path of the juggernaut.

In essence, we went apeshit. We created camps and interened The Other in them. We sometimes held them, and sometimes murdered them, and sometimes forced them to work. We bombed civilian targets, because as Sherman and the Thirty Years War had taught us, if you break the populace you break the enemy. We created masses of mud and death, firebombed cities, made lampshades out of human skin, turned the North Atlantic into a graveyard, accidentally spread Influenza through the ranks of our soldiers, allowed Werner Von Braun a free ride while torturing Alan Turing, and in many cases killed and killed and killed for worthless rocks in the middle of nowhere.

Is anybody proud of this psychotic episode?

I am not attempting to denigrate the sacrifices of my forefathers. If any war became a war that could not be turned away from due in a great deal to the failures of those in power when that generation of teenagers was called upon to die, it was this war. The whole reason they were heroic was because what they were called upon to do by their nations was to die because their leaders had utterly failed them. And they did it.

The dropping of the Atomic Bomb is a keystone event in the history of mankind. In terms of all the death that had preceded it, the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are merely an encore. We can debate the use of the bomb on a civilian versus a military target, but the fact is, in war there are no longer civilian targets and there have not been since Sherman took a stroll through Georgia. In terms of the debut of a new weapon onto the world stage, a naked demonstration that at the tail end of a period of madness and death the great Kali Yuga was loosed and all the rules had changed, the Christening of America as the Pale Horse...it is beyond an archetype.

Was the dropping of the Atomic Bomb done to scare Stalin, or to save Amercian lives? Probably both. These are hardly mutually antagonistic outcomes. The problem is in the lack of bisociation, the inability for our back and forth "It was genocide, it was a heroic act" debate to come to the idea that it was both. The entire war was lunacy. The entire war was a demonstration of the nobility of the human spirit.

Sure, we could have hit a more "military" target, and we could have hit Tokyo. We could have dropped only one bomb, or we could have built another and dropped three. The United States is the only nation to have dropped an atomic bomb in wartime because the German project was successfully sabotaged and sent down blind alleys. The United States is the only nation to have dropped an atom bomb because it was the one to get there.

Perhaps the next fifty years of our Atomic Damocles were neccessary. Perhaps we are edging towards the brink again because without the threat of race-death, we no longer know how to behave. Perhaps not. But let us not delude ourselves: mankind is a mad thing that kills itself constantly, and yet moves on. And it contains as many facets as any cut stone, and as many motivations as individuals that make it up.

We went apeshit. Perhaps the slap in the face of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were a wake up call.
posted by Ezrael at 6:59 AM on July 19, 2001


Maybe you should pry your pasty white scrawny fingers off that keyboard and go try to serve and see what it's like. I did. Got that Ed? Personally I would have fucking tied you to one of the bombs and you could have screamed your pathetic apologies on the way down.

After reading all of the jingoistic "my country right or wrong" tripe from people without a scintilla of doubt about whether we needed to kill 340,000 people to end the war, it's almost a shame that the U.S. didn't commit the Holocaust. I get the impression there isn't any atrocity some people can't wrap the flag around.
posted by rcade at 7:04 AM on July 19, 2001


it's almost a shame that the U.S. didn't commit the Holocaust


Wha....could you run that by me again?.....even as a rhetorical point, which I hope it was supposed to be, this fall pretty flat, and it is also a considerable insult to the memories of millions of people!


Congratulations, rcade.


Now, before I go off, it should be said that I support the dropping of the bomb. This pretty much instantly makes me ideological enemies of some of you, but even so, I would hope that what I am about to say makes some sense:


What we did was not the Holocaust and should never be compared to the Holocaust. The Holocaust was a ten year racial genocide against a group of civilians for the sole purpose of creating a "pure" homeland for Aryan culture. The bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were two (perhaps racially motivated) bombings of (mostly) civilian cities in an attempt to END THE WAR. It should be said, however, that if the weapon had been ready in time, we might have used it on Berlin, making the racial argument pretty weak, and making a comparison to the Holocaust even less valid.


Not that impressing Stalin or the rest of the world didn't have anything to do with it, but Stalin already knew about the bomb. Maybe we did it to keep him from invading Japan himself, but the fact is in August 1945, the Russians were still engaged in fighting in Manchuria. They weren't exactly sitting on the beaches of the Sea of Japan waiting for the order to go.


The point is that America had more pressing concerns, as in, how to stop the fighting in SE Asia, how to keep brainwashed Japanese kids from ramming our ships with explosive laden planes, boats and submarines. Americans were dying every day...and because of the bomb, THEY DIDN'T HAVE TO.


Now, here is where the 20/20 hindsight kicks in: Was it worth the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent Japanese civilians to prevent the deaths of these American GI's? I say yes, for two reasons:


1) Empirical: The bombing prevent the loss of an estimated 1 million American lives in Operation Olympic. The bombing also prevented 2-4 million deaths from starvation among the Japanese civilian population. Had the war gone on, these people would have gradually starved to death. As it turned out, only immediate American food aid saved them. Talk to any Japanese alive at the time, and they can tell you of a mass famine to rival any you have ever heard of.


And yes, the invasion would have been necessary...Why? Because the Japanese were not ready to give up. It has been mentioned that the Japanese made overtures of a conditional peace before the bombings. True, but these were the unsupported actions of a peace-minded segment of the Imperial Court. It by no means represented a consensus. In fact, the Court was pretty much split evenly between doves and hawks. Hawks who would fight to the death, and brainwash the Japanese civilian population to fight to the death against Americans who, they were told, rape the women, kill the men, and eat the children. Hawks, who after learning of the emperor's intention of surrender after Nagasaki, attempted a military coup against a living God that was foiled only by a blackout caused by a nearby American bombing raid.


2) Moral: The Japanese had to be stopped. Why? Ask any Chinese or Koreans alive at the time. Their treatment of POWs and the civilian populations they controlled was in many ways worse than the Nazi's. (This is not a Holocaust comparison mind you). Their medical experimentation alone should convince anyone who believes in the basic rights of humanity that these people had to be stopped. There could be no negotiation, no limited peace with an acceptance of what the Japanese were doing. They simply had to be eliminated.


The Japanese government, and especially the Emperor, with his refusal to reign in war criminals like Tojo, are to blame for what had to be done to stop them. The power to end the war lay inside their heads. It would only be when they accepted defeat, that the war would end. It took the atomic bombs to do that. It took the instant vaporization of thousands to stop the mad-men.


I think that the Allied countries, and the veterans thereof, can be justly proud for what they did to stop the genocidal and megalomaniacal governments of Italy, Germany and Japan. It is the entire species that should morn that Nagasaki and Hiroshima had to happen.
posted by thewittyname at 8:23 AM on July 19, 2001


Part of the cognitive disconnect here is the lack of recognition of the range of opinions in Japan at the time, and who held them. There was a movement to surrender, primarily among certain high ranking civilians. There was also a movement to resist to the last, among other high ranking civilians and among the top brass of the army. Hirohito on paper had the power to rule but had during his entire reign as Emperor tried to emulate the British monarchs and to keep hands off.

Japan's government of that time has sometimes been referred to as "rule by assassination". Quite often, someone who tried to push a policy opposed by the military would receive a visit by mid-level army officers and end up dead. The people who were looking to surrender were not moving very fast or making much progress, both because they knew they'd be killed, and because they were being opposed by the military who, for reasons too complicated to go into here, had what amounted to veto power over the acts of the government. Both the Army and the Navy had the ability to make the government fall anytime they wanted.

In August 1945, the primary plan of the nation was to resist the expected invasion to the last person. That extreme probably wouldn't have occurred, but there were some frightening experiences which suggested the extent to which they were willing to go. At Okinawa, at the southern tip of the island, when the US Army and Marines finally got there, some of the remaining soldiers jumped off of cliffs rather than surrender. What's worse, they herded thousands of civilians off those same cliffs.

And a lot of the fighting on Okinawa was done by civilians who had been impressed into service at the last minute. The battle on Okinawa cost tens of thousands of civilian lives.

Someone asked how many civilians would have been lost if the bombs had not been dropped. The best answer seems to be "A hell of a lot more than were lost in this reality". Starvation was going to be a major problem because the US had largely cut off all shipping, and Japan wasn't self sufficient in food. But more to the point is that the invasion would have led directly to the deaths in combat of hundreds of thousands of civilians, as collateral casualties and even directly as combatants or suicides.

The second bomb was unquestionably necessary. After Hiroshima, there was a high government council held, and hard liners tried to claim that the Hiroshima bomb was the only one that the US had, and that the struggle should continue. Indeed, they were having this very discussion when messengers arrived to announce the Nagasaki bomb.

But the real point of the second bomb is that it convinced Hirohito to act. The war ended not because the government of Japan decided to surrender, but because Hirohito ordered them to do so. And even that was a close run thing; there was a revolt in the Army and a group of officers tried to go to the Palace to capture Hirohito and force him to change the surrender order. Other troops who remained loyal prevented this.

Why target civilians? They weren't targeting civilians. Tokyo was firebombed because Japanese industry was decentralized. While it did have large factories, much of Japan's industry was in the form of very small shops spread out in civilian centers. After the firebombing of one city, an reconnaissance photo showed no buildings left, but isolated drill presses standing like occasional trees all through the area which had burned. (They would have been useless.) It also has to be understood that Gulf-War levels of precision were impossible then, and attempts at precision daylight bombing of large targets with high explosives had been futile between 11/1944 and 2/1945. When you firebombed a city, you could be certain of actually destroying what was in the area which burned.

For example: on the night of June 17-18, four targets were firebombed. They bombed Kagoshima, a major port and rail terminus. It also housed a silk mill, an oil storage facility and four electric power plants.

They also bombed Omuta. It had chemical manufacturing plants, a coke mill (necessary for steel production), a synthetic oil production plant, and also made explosives and fertilizer.

Hamamatsu contained one of the six most important workshops for locomotive repair. It also produced aircraft propellers, ammunition and bombs, and machinery.

And Yokkaichi was a major port, and it had the largest oil refinery in Japan.

Those are legitimate targets. It has to be understood that by June 1945 they were working on secondary targets because the biggest targets had already been destroyed, but it's completely legitimate to attack industry to try to prevent supply of enemy troops.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 10:05 AM on July 19, 2001


I get the impression there isn't any atrocity some people can't wrap the flag around.

rogers, I couldn't agree with you more.

They simply had to be eliminated.

"They" being the civilians -- not the people making military decisions, not even the footsoldiers carrying those decisions out, but civilians, a good number of them children on their way to school, who died in Nagasaki and Hiroshima.

From Dostoevsky's Brothers Karamazov:
"Imagine that you are creating a fabric of human destiny with the object of making men happy in the end, giving them peace and rest at last, but that it was essential and inevitable to torture to death only one tiny creature -- that baby beating its breast with its fist, for instance -- and to found that edifice on its unavenged tears, would you consent to be the architect on those conditions? Tell me, and tell the truth."

"No, I wouldn't consent," said Alyosha softly.

"And can you admit the idea that men for whom you are building it would agree to accept their happiness on the foundation of the unexpiated blood of a little victim? And accepting it would remain happy for ever?"


I'm sorry thewittyname, but if you think causing the death of innocents -- even to end a war -- is anything to be proud of, I hope you and the other people who feel like you never get anywhere near weapons of any sort, let alone weapons of mass destruction.
posted by lia at 10:05 AM on July 19, 2001


[Are you sure you're an ordained minister? I don't know if that there Jesus feller they talk about would have been so flippant about the loss of life, "civilian" or otherwise.]

Absolutely sure, yes. Wrong is wrong. Both sides commited attrocities, it is the nature of war. I don't believe in the concept of war crimes, it's all wrong no matter who does it. I'm just sick of people pointing fingers and saying "They did it!"

Well, we all did it. Let's try not to do it again...
posted by revbrian at 10:37 AM on July 19, 2001


...and I assume that letting the war continue would have *ensured* the safety, well-being, and security of all of these civilians? Uh-uh and no way. Thousands died, that hundreds of millions may live - freely, too. Not optimal, but necessary in order to bring to a halt the destruction & carnage.

And please don't lose sight of the fact that WE (America) were not the aggressor - we did not instigate this horrible war, on either front. We did not seek to expand our empire, exterminate a race, or otherwise destroy.

Finally - for those of you who have so passionately stated that dropping the bomb was wrong, immoral, evil, etc, please describe how you would have ended the war.
posted by davidmsc at 10:42 AM on July 19, 2001


davidmsc, just because an action is practical and expedient doesn't mean it's the right choice. Maybe more people would've died if the bombs hadn't been dropped -- that still doesn't mean they should've been dropped.

As for asking me and the others to describe how we would've ended the war, that's a straw man; the point is that killing innocents should never ever be an option.

We did not seek to expand our empire

Perhaps not during those years, no, but you might want to read up on Mark Twain's protests on a dirty part of US history in the half-century preceeding WWII that you weren't taught in school; your country doesn't have clean hands.
posted by lia at 11:08 AM on July 19, 2001


Imagine divulging to the american people that we had the means to possibly end the war and did not use 'it'. A million men is rubbish. (unless you through in the russians as an ally in the invasion.) Assemble some BRAINS to New Mexico...allied, axis and who ever is left, and light one of these candles...if it failed you have another and the BRAINS go"shit they have enough for tests, for a failed test and a strike" a poker hand. Really, if they dont get the point, then let that puppy go. once. These things etch the last shadow a human makes.(given conditions-and that statement should sicken us the most) We warned the russians (potsdam) and Joe just said "deal"(he shrugged it off). well #^$@ him, he was scared we would get global and rain BIG SAM all over his backyard. WE DID NOT. In spite of u.s. policy from 1945 on, the U.S. did not attempt to military control this planet. We had the tech but not the WILL. HOLGATE read "Devils Brigade", A geo-political history/autobiography about tacical and stratedgic warfare from 1949-53 (?)in Indochine. It is about and an Ex-Waffen SS brigade (800-900 men) in the french foreighn legion sent into vietnam. These were hard ass cadre and MET the force that was intiated. For example, they did not walk into a vill and kill someone as a point. These 'devils' would talk to them(hearts and minds)((which i dont support, an aggressor remains one weither friendly or violent)). When vietmihn would grab a few of their boys and kill them in brutal fashion, "devils" would go to the cadres vill, gather thier families, tie them to a convey or march them through the sector, blaring on a loud speaker"we have your uncle ho" etc. They match the force and they prevailed.These few men tied up vietmihn forces needed else were and in the real shitholes, would reduce a sector to almost no activity. It took people like Giap by suprise and i believe he had to commit a large scale force to suppress them, thus helping increase his skill as a general. BIG SAMS ear in indochine knew this. knew the brutality and dedication the N. Vietnamese government had. the advent of superior firepower(HA) deluded the cigar star beltway boys that they could defy dedication and win one for america. really, I think the carnage of korea made up the lack luster appeal of vietnamese terrian in the early stage. (please forgive bad grammar :)((also ,''military control' of the world means u.s. tanks in everyones back yard, except her friends, i would envision such a nightmare as B.Y.O.T.))
posted by clavdivs at 11:17 AM on July 19, 2001


i think Twain has by bike.
posted by clavdivs at 11:17 AM on July 19, 2001


clavdivs, sweetie, bad grammar is the least of your problems.
posted by lia at 11:21 AM on July 19, 2001


Lia,

Although I think American veterans of WW II do have something to be proud of, it is not because they killed some Nazi or Japanese soldier. Rather, it is because they stopped those governments from spreading across the globe, enslaving and killing millions. I am surprised at your attitude, especially being from the Philippines....

As for war, what do you think...that it is still some kind of Napoleonic conflict where soldiers line up in some field and duke it out.....and that the civilians get to watch on the sidelines? The fact is, like Ezrael said, since the Civil War, the civilian population is simply not left out of the conflict any longer.

That this is true is a tragedy, and a damning indictment on humanity in general. However, in a situation like WW II, a situation as close to good vs. evil that history has given us, everything that could be done had to be done, in order to stop the Nazis and the Japanese. You should know what they did to your country. Even if America's record of brutality, hypocrisy, and lies in the Philippines is second only to our treatment of the Native Americans, America was fighting something even worse. The Japanese killed Filipinos (and Chinese, and Koreans, etc, etc.), without any hesitation, even with pleasure. My point is not to say that they did it first, so we could do it back. Rather the price of failing to liberate these countries would have been so terribly high, and the indiscriminate and massive nature of the war made civilian casualties impossible to avoid. Thus, the atomic bomb was a) needed to stop the war as quickly as possible in order to SAVE LIVES, b) not out of line, in terms of its effect, (I.e. firebombing, racial genocide, mass rape etc.) with the wartime practices of every major nation fighting in WW II and c) an option which, due to its terrible toll, should only be used in a very few situations.

WWII was one such situation. What I am getting at is that WW II was a unique war, probably never to be repeated. And fortunately, humanity (America or otherwise) has never seen fit to use atomic weapons since. Even though I defend the use of the bomb on Japan, there has not been a conflict since that I could support its use in.

Now, technology has replaced a certain kind of ancient "military etiquette" that left civilian out of its countries wars. Even for the well-publicized failings of smart bombs and surgical strike missions, the days of mass firebombing raids is probably over. Thank god.

So lia, I resent the fact that you think I am some sort of cold-blooded killer type. I hope I never have to live to see an atomic weapon used in anger, in fact, I'm for destroying the entire world's supply.
posted by thewittyname at 11:32 AM on July 19, 2001


I don't know, the whole "we did it to end the war and therefore to save soldier's lives" can be a pretty weak argument. McNamara has finally admitted that he knew by 1968 that the Vietnam War "couldn't be won" (i.e., it was LOST, for Chrissakes). That fact didn't stop neither McNamara nor Clifford and all the others after them. The Vietnam War, already unwinnable, went on and on and on...Seven more years. "Saving American soldiers" therefore is not always a priority for the Pentagon, the White House and Congress.
It's more realistic to think that the Cold War was being fought already. The Germans had just committed that appalling, unthinkable crime, the Holocaust. A few months after the liberation of the Death Camps it's safe to say that public sympathy for the Axis was pretty weak. So, actually using the Bomb probably didn't look as bad as it does now ( I mean, segregation didn't look as bad also, since millions of White Americans were quite happy living with it). Different times, sadly, human rights were not always discussed as often as we do today.
Was racism a factor? Probably historians will argue about this forever. Maybe Harry Truman wasn't the most P-C guy ever (he was a Southerner who sometimes used the N-word, just check his most recent biographies), but I'm not sure we have enough evidence to define him as such. We have evidence of Churchill's racism and prejudice, though ( and he was a great Statesman and wonderful writer anyway, no doubt about it). But again, the role of Truman's alleged racism in the decision is still pretty unclear
posted by matteo at 11:39 AM on July 19, 2001


clavdivs, sweetie, bad grammar is the least of your problems.

Adhoc ad hominem.
hey, the bomb is scary. war makes "right" stand in the corner. I cant judge the decision. i can only try and point out that dropping the bomb was the only thing we really could do to stop the war in less then a week. Stalin was trickling into china under the guise of liberation. His bullwerk of Berlin. Africa a shambles, Europe bleeding, asia in chaos. really, if truman had global ambitions, The least of his worries would be military hardware(2 million german p.o.ws. in england could toss a few of those russian divisions back. etc.) the american people where tired, to tired for world conquest USING MILITARY MEANS. enter the cold war.
posted by clavdivs at 12:01 PM on July 19, 2001


and lia, id kill anyone who attempted to forcably take away your right to speech, wiether you wanted me too or not. really, the coherence of these statements is...remarkable and accurate. my god, history is alive and kickin. I say(on the subject of debate) An athiest should be able to defend god against themslves. People slaughter people enmasse almost daily, so in a sense the bomb did nothing to stop the killing, if anything, localized it, turned it into a global theater with regional conflicts.
posted by clavdivs at 12:25 PM on July 19, 2001


gemme me bike
posted by clavdivs at 12:25 PM on July 19, 2001


We did not seek to expand our empire,

The USA’s empire after World War II most certainly did expand, or have you forgotten all the military bases built all over South East Asia, including Japan? While they retained some semblance of soveignty, they were depedent on the US for defense and economics. Still are depedent for defense, though they seem to be struggling to build up again.

It seems people here haven’t really learned from the incident, so in another fifty years maybe we’ll be bombing them back into submission.
posted by capt.crackpipe at 1:13 PM on July 19, 2001


That could be a possibility... History repeats itself, or so I have heard a time or two...
posted by da5id at 1:24 PM on July 19, 2001


Whoa there, capt.crackpipe. Our "empire" didn't expand. Short of taking decisive steps to ensure that Japan didn't build up a force capable of another Pearl Harbor-style incident, we did not interfere with Japanese sovereignity, government, or culture. True, we have bases there (and Korea, and a few other places), but we are there primarily for OUR protection & security. We didn't establish bases in these countries to claim the territory, or "convert" the locals, or any such nonsense.

Face it - if we truly wanted to "colonize" and expand our empire - we could (at least for a while), wrong though it would be.
posted by davidmsc at 1:34 PM on July 19, 2001


we did not interfere with Japanese sovereignty, government, or culture.
Other than writing their constitution, claiming the whole of Okinawa (now significantly less), forcibly humanizing the emperor, and corrupting the languages to the point where anyone here can recognized thousands of Japanese words as they are just slightly different from the words we use everyday. We even changed their calendar, and the words they use to reference days of the week.

Not carping at you dmc, but I don't agree either.
posted by thirteen at 3:28 PM on July 19, 2001


One could also argue that the US didn't need to embark upon traditional empire-building because it had the capacity to restore its domestic industries to a paeace-time footing without the cost of rebuilding. In that context, though, the Marshall Plans and NATO come across as some of the most benign acts of empire ever to take place.

Hiroshima and Nagasaki froze the clocks: compressed the slaughter of the Somme, of Coventry and Dresden, to a matter of seconds. In that context, they're valuable, because, like a lens concentrating sunlight, they burn into us the responsibility to ensure that such acts should never need to be contemplated.
posted by holgate at 3:40 PM on July 19, 2001


Whoa there, capt.crackpipe. Our "empire" didn't expand.

Actually, yes in a way it did. After the war the United States had for the first time unrivalled access to the resources of the world. What it lost in terms of access to China, it gained through the simultaneous collapse of European and Japanese colonial power in what we now call the Third World.

Of course other nations have benefited greatly from pax americana, most ironically Japan and Germany. Japan's industry now has access to a global resource base which dwarfs the most ambitious dreams of the Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere. In the former colonial world it was excluded from this access which is what prompted the Japanese desire for a colonial empire of its own. Today Japan is essential element of the post war "Western" economy.

In a nutshell, it's no longer necessary to physically annex land in order to build an Empire. The American model of intertwined economic relationships underwritten by American military might is new in that it recognizes nations' "sovereignty" and "right to self-determination" even as these terms and concepts have become more and more meaningless.

The reality is that the resources of the vast majority of the world's nations are available to the richest as rock bottom prices. This "rational" economic framework is the true legacy of the world order established after World War II.

The present divvying up of the world's resources may be viewed as the natural state of affairs but in reality it's about as "natural" as the British Empire. History provides plenty of examples to demonstrate in the long term any state of affairs is temporary.
posted by lagado at 5:10 PM on July 19, 2001


Hmmm...I don't suppose that you would consider the American culture, via movies, food, language, commerce, etc, to be "empire building" and a wrong that must be righted...?
posted by davidmsc at 5:38 PM on July 19, 2001


australia gets the t.k.o. at...
posted by clavdivs at 6:38 PM on July 19, 2001


9:40 edt
posted by clavdivs at 6:40 PM on July 19, 2001


Lagado makes me smarter.

the Marshall Plans and NATO come across as some of the most benign acts of empire ever to take place

Benign or insidious? America used its hegemony in the Post War years with one goal in mind: market liberalization. Certainly the wars weren’t fought strictly in the hopes of post-colonial colonization, but every country that America took control over and the Allies (except Communist Russia) bent to its economic will.

The American economy seriously improved during war time by near total government control. Coming out of the war, industry was incredibly prosperous, and business leaders set about to make sure America’s leadership position wasn’t squandered.

No destructive wars were fought for America to achieve this dominance. That is, if you discount dropping atomic bombs, consquently ruining whatever vestiges of Japanese industry were left after a punishing war fought on several fronts. Forcing Japan and a ruined Germany to accept a weak conception of democracy — marked by the preponderance of timid center-right politicians — and trade liberalization controlled by Washington isn’t the bloody conquests we’re taught about in elementary school. It is empire building nonetheless.
posted by capt.crackpipe at 9:14 PM on July 19, 2001


In the foreword to 'Slaughterhouse Five', Vonnegut mentions a conversation with a peer.

The friend asks Vonnegut what he is working on.
Vonnegut replies that he is working on an anti-war novel.
The friend tells him that he might as well write an anti-glacier novel.

I believe that pretty much sums it up.
posted by ttrendel at 2:37 AM on July 20, 2001


Oh yeah...the city that went untouched was Kyoto, not Osaka.
posted by ttrendel at 2:39 AM on July 20, 2001


I am surprised at your attitude, especially being from the Philippines....

and

Even if America's record of brutality, hypocrisy, and lies in the Philippines is second only to our treatment of the Native Americans, America was fighting something even worse.

So I'm supposed to forget about the hundreds of thousands of civilians murdered by US troops in the Philippines for monetary gain because y'all up and saved the world from a greater evil than yourselves! And thank you for it even! Spot the hypocrisy, kids.
posted by lia at 2:47 AM on July 20, 2001


Just to clean up a little erroneous history:

"Japan had already signaled its openness to a conditional surrender, but the U.S. wanted unconditional surrender. Which, of course, it got. "
Japan's surrender, unconditional or otherwise, was not a foregone conclusion. Even after the two bombs were dropped and Hirohito decided to surrender, a core group of military generals stormed his palace trying to take him prisoner and continue the fighting.

Because the then secretary of state (sorry, no name) had spent time there and seen the beauty of the city
Cordell Hull was SOS, but I think it was Stinson who had seen Kyoto and nixed it as a military target, because of its beauty and religious significance. It was felt bombing a religious center would only harden the Japanese against surrender.

We can debate the use of the bomb on a civilian versus a military target ...
Hiroshima was the headquarters for the Japanese Army, and had tens of thousands of troops stationed there. It was a military target. The reason Toyko was not bombed was that firebombing had effectively leveled the city, rendering it useless as a military target and a demonstration of the bomb's power.

Truman's estimates of losses that would come from the invasion of Japan scheduled for December 1945 were more than 1 million American lives, and another 3 million Japanese soldiers and civilians. Japan was training its civilian men, women and children how to stab and kill American soldiers when the invasion comes, so the subsequent war in 1946 (and perhaps 1947) was going to be horrific. Truman never lost a moment's sleep over the decision, nor should he.

As an historian, I find all this moral posturing and revisionism amusing. It's fun to bash America for decisions made 56 years ago to make points in the current world boxing match. But please don't play loose with the facts, and don't make a wise decision look stupid just to appease your current biases.
posted by darren at 5:03 AM on July 20, 2001


wtg darren!
posted by da5id at 5:34 AM on July 20, 2001


> As an historian, I find all this moral posturing and
> revisionism amusing.

Argumentum ad verecundiam?

As an historian, I don't. And not as a historian, I'm still not giggling. I think that, with Bush restarting the cold war, it's a fine thing people are examining and questioning the morality of nuclear weapons past and present. Some things people did in the past were bad. It is possible to examine the past and judge it.
posted by pracowity at 5:34 AM on July 20, 2001


Benign or insidious?

Arguably both. To some extent, it was a fait accompli: even without those economic and military structures, the US would have sprinted out of the blocks, as capt.crackpipe notes. What they did do -- more as a side effect, though undoubtedly a welcome one for US interests -- is accelerate the breakdown of European empires as trading and political blocs.
posted by holgate at 5:40 AM on July 20, 2001


Lia,

No, you should never forget anything that happened, and yes, you should be grateful. If it wasn't for America's absolute desire to crush the Japanese wartime empire, you might be speaking their language. Is that what you want? Perhaps you should think a little more about the fact that the occupying Japanese forces kept hundreds of "comfort women" (i.e. gang rape victims) and murdered tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of Filipinos in unnecessary attacks on Manila and other cities both at the beginning and the end of the war.

Of course Filipinos have a good reason to hate Americans, but what I don't understand about you, is that you know two different countries have pillaged your country, America first, then Japan. But you choose to vilify the US, and refuse to acknowledge its role in removing the Japanese and ensuring your freedom.
posted by thewittyname at 8:12 AM on July 20, 2001


good arguemeants, though retrospect and shades of Historical inevitability seem the main underlying philosophies. I think oppenhiemer and the military weighed this issue into todays headlines(if you follow) I agree with the decision to drop it, as i would then(?). But to drop it twice is what fails my logic, it seems a big brick, like a plane from an airshow hitting the crowd. Tibbets was an officer, probably assigned the most controversial job in history, but he followed orders, those orders where excepted by him as he weighed them and saw that they did not conflict with a higher moral code(for example, "drop this on London". "sure, get me a letter from the president then i will read it, decide he is insane, start a coup, and (chick-chick) your the first casualty(bang) What ifs and would haves are excellent tools for historical analysis. In asian studies, when the bomb was covered, professor did not directly address the moral dilemma of 'could you have', instead laid it out as a choice. invade japan or drop a bomb. He offered one piece of fact that seemed to baffle. "by july-august, 1945. the Japanese airforce(homeland) primarily used aviation fuel made from pine needles."
posted by clavdivs at 8:31 AM on July 20, 2001


It is possible to examine the past and judge it.


Examine the past? Absolutely. Judge it? To a degree. It is wise to temper our actions now by the results of past actions but to declare past actions wrong is worthless. You are not limited to the knowledge they had at the time nor are you subject the political and emotional issues that were upon them. Basically, what the decision came down to was whether to kill a large number of people with two bombs quickly or to kill a number of people a magnitude of order larger over an extended period of time using conventional methods. It's not even a choice. Even "morally", given their information at the time, the correct choice was made.

To look back at the results and say we should never do that again is the morally correct decision now. Morals are not constants, they change. What is moral during an all-out war and what is moral during a period of relative peace are two vastly different concepts.
posted by RevGreg at 8:37 AM on July 20, 2001


No way, Greg. There are moral truths. Moral relativism leads to murderous equivocation, as lia is trying to make thewittyname see, and a lot of people in this very thread don’t seem to understand.

I refuse to believe that people may have been “morally correct” because they lived in “ignorant times.” It’s a dodge people use to shirk the responsibility of their actions.

And I want to read darren’s critique of Howard Zinn, Lifton and Takaki. I love the ongoing propogandist vs. revisionist argument. It’s the world we live in.
posted by capt.crackpipe at 2:50 PM on July 20, 2001


There are moral truths. Moral relativism leads to murderous equivocation
I am mostly in agreement with you about the subject at hand capt. but doesn't the argument going on prove there are no moral truths? I think Moral relativism wins the day.
posted by thirteen at 3:47 PM on July 20, 2001


thewittyname, what you've repeatedly failed or refused to understand is that there is a distinction between the Japanese government and Japanese civilians, in the same way that the US government is distinct from its citizens.

There isn't any contradiction in mourning the innocents murdered in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, because they had nothing to do with what happened in my country -- it would be as illogical for me to hate them as it would for me to hate your average American because of what happened (and is continuing to happen) here thanks to the actions of the US government.

If it wasn't for America's absolute desire to crush the Japanese wartime empire, you might be speaking their language. Is that what you want?

Because, of course, being forced to learn English by an occupying force is just so much better than Japanese or Spanish; again with the hypocritical flagwaving.

Perhaps you should think a little more about the fact that the occupying Japanese forces kept hundreds of "comfort women" (i.e. gang rape victims) and murdered tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of Filipinos in unnecessary attacks on Manila and other cities both at the beginning and the end of the war.

Perhaps you should think a little more about the fact that before and after the Japanese left, the occupying US forces were doing pretty much the same thing.

But you choose to vilify the US, and refuse to acknowledge its role in removing the Japanese and ensuring your freedom.

The "ensuring your freedom" bit is especially laughable -- it goes to show how little you know about your country's history of imperialism. It doesn't help your case much when you choose to combine ignorance with condescension.
posted by lia at 12:39 AM on July 21, 2001


lia: (and is continuing to happen) here thanks to the actions of the US government.

Can you elaborate on what is "continuing to happen?"
posted by davidmsc at 3:59 AM on July 21, 2001


Moral relativism leads to murderous equivocation, as lia is trying to make thewittyname see, and a lot of people in this very thread don’t seem to understand.

ALL examinations of morals result in "moral relativism", including your own. To remove an act from it's moral context is an act of intellectual masturbation. If you think the "moral truths" you hold dear today were interpreted the same way in 1945, you are sadly mistaken.

I refuse to believe that people may have been “morally correct” because they lived in “ignorant times.” It’s a dodge people use to shirk the responsibility of their actions.

I have never seen any of the persons involved in the bombings shirk an ounce of responsibility. None of them were happy about the decision that was made or deaths it caused - many second guessed themselves afterward. In fact they lamented the decision although they felt it was correct when they made it. If they had wallowed in glory the way the German leaders did concerning their "victory" weapons I would feel much different about them.

As for the "ignorant times" statement - I don't get it. What does that have to do with anything said or is it just a poorly worded thought?
posted by RevGreg at 7:31 AM on July 22, 2001


« Older Vinegar prank backfires on fish and chip shop owne...  |  Your Hotmail account now boast... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments