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Jewish World Review / August 6, 1998 / 14 Menachem-Av, 5758

Don Feder

Don Feder Truth about Hiroshima is incontrovertible

Today marks the 53rd anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing, yet there's still an intense -- and intensely mendacious -- debate about what transpired in Asia more than half a century ago.

The Japanese right and American left are oddly united in their determination to rewrite history to exonerate those wonderful folks who brought us Pearl Harbor and indict the United States.
Former Prime Minister Hideki Tojo
testifies during his trial at the old
War Ministry building in Tokyo in 1948.

In June, "Pride, the Fateful Moment" was the most popular movie in Japan. A glorification of fascism on par with "Triumph of the Will," it portrays Japan's wartime prime minister, Hideki Tojo, as a hero and a gentle family man. Sure, and Heinrich Himmler was a snappy dresser.

While Tojo, executed as a war criminal in 1946, was being rehabilitated, Japanese academics were disputing Iris Chang's best seller, "The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II."

"We don't deny civilians were killed," Akira Nakamura, a history professor at Dokkyo University, graciously admitted. "But it is doubtful what happened in Nanking can be called a 'holocaust' or 'massacre.'" Nakamura attributed eyewitness accounts of wholesale atrocities by Japanese troops to the Chinese "tendency to exaggerate."

In fact, more Chinese died in the first six weeks of the occupation (around 350,000) than at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Japanese soldiers held decapitation contests to see who could behead the most captives. Pregnant women were raped by entire military units.

And these weren't the most sickening atrocities, many of which are too horrible to recount here. Even the German in charge of the expatriate Nazi Party chapter was appalled.

Nanking was a dress rehearsal for Japan's conduct throughout World War II -- the Bataan death march, Mengele-like experiments of Unit 731 in Manchuria and the brutal treatment of POWs (one in three were killed).

Japanese who are engaged in ancestor-worship have American allies, a lot of latter-day Tokyo Roses. In 1994, multiculturalists at the Smithsonian's Air and Space Museum designed an exhibit on the end of the war in the Pacific that presented Japan as a victim of cultural imperialism and America's decision to drop the atomic bomb as racist.

This revisionism is continued in the recently published scholarly anthology, "Hiroshima's Shadow."

Nagasaki Mayor Hitoshi Motoshima declared that the atomic bombings were, like the Holocaust, a crime against humanity. To compare the annihilation of European Jewry to the fate Japanese warlords brought on their country is the most egregious moral equivalence.

Thanks to the Magic intercepts, President Harry Truman and the American high command were reading Japanese diplomatic dispatches in August 1945.

They knew the Japanese had mobilized an army of 2.5 million to defend the home islands and were determined to fight to the bitter end, replicating the battle of Okinawa (where 12,500 GIs died) on a national scale. An invasion would have led to half a million American casualties, including 100,000 deaths.

There is much airy theorizing on how Truman could have brought the war to a successful conclusion without deploying Fat Man and Little Boy. Some revisionists suggest that he could have used the A-bomb on a Pacific atoll, then sent snapshots to the imperial palace in Tokyo.

But three days after Hiroshima, a meeting of the Japanese war council was deadlocked on whether to surrender, with the three military men on the council arguing fervently for a continuation of the conflict. "Would it not be wondrous for this whole nation to be destroyed like a beautiful flower?" asked General Anami, the war minister.

It was only after the news of Nagasaki that Emperor Hirohito decided to "bear the unbearable."

Well, we could have blockaded the islands and starved the Japanese into surrendering, armchair strategists assert. And how many Allied POWs, who were being murdered at the rate of 1,000 a week, would we have lost in the process, not to mention our combatants who would have died elsewhere in Asia?

Only Americans who have been taught to automatically assign the worst motives to their own nation under all circumstances, and Japanese who are willfully blind to history, can doubt the necessity of dropping the A-bombs.

As memory fades, opportunities for revisionism abound. But the truth about Hiroshima is as incontrovertible as what happened in Nanking in 1937 and 1938.


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©1998, Boston Herald; distributed by Creators Syndicate, Inc.