No second thoughts about a bomb for Hiroshima

Wesley Pruden

By Wesley Pruden

Published August 4, 2015

An Allied correspondent stands in the rubble after the Atom bomb attack on Hiroshima.

The pointless debate continues. As reliable as the arrival of the scorching heat and drenching humidity of August, comes the debate (mostly by academics) over whether the United States is guilty of moral outrage for having dropped the atomic bombs on Japan on Aug. 6 and 9, 1945, to put an end to the carnage of World War II.

For some, the fact of Hiroshima and Nagasaki "proves" the inherent savagery and evil of America. For others, America was not necessarily evil (though maybe it was), but merely impatient, arrogant and greedy, and could have accomplished the Japanese surrender with a kinder, gentler way.

But for the majority, then and now, the Bomb was a gift of Providence, developed to stop the slaughter of the most horrific war of history. Hiroshima was payback, too, for Pearl Harbor, Wake Island, the Bataan death march, the rape of China, the ravenous plunder of the Philippines, Korea and the islands that suffered in the heat, disease and squalid butchery of the South Pacific. The plunderers and butchers had it coming.

In an ordered world, the might and fury of nuclear weapons would be more than anyone has coming. That's what's the furor over the sellout to the mullahs in Iran is all about, the recognition and understanding that such weapons in the hands of savages driven by perversion of religion could set off a chain of events that would consume untold parts of the world — or maybe all of it. Nobody had World War II coming, either. War, as Sherman said, is hell. He would know.

This year, right on schedule, The Washington Post devoted nearly a full page of the Sunday paper to a learned professor's attempt to use myths to debunk the facts he calls myths. Prof. Gregg Herken, a professor of diplomatic history at the University of California, sets up the facts of Hiroshima, facts recognized as the essential details of the mission of Enola Gay, and attempts to knock them down. These so called "myths" are that the bomb ended the war, the bomb saved a half-million lives (including many thousands of Japanese), the only alternative to the bomb was an invasion of Japan, the Japanese were warned before the bomb was dropped, and America dropped the bomb to get a "master card" to deal against Russia in the approaching confrontation that history calls the Cold War. All of these "myths" are not myths at all. They were true facts in 1945, and they're true in 2015.

Many of the contemporary historians and academics, some of whom were children or grandchildren of men who would have died on the beaches and the Tokyo plain, are purveyors of what they call "revisionist history." Such speculation usually consists of "making it up."

The revisionists, in their eagerness to invoke moral equivalence, want everyone to "reflect anew" on the ethics of the bombing of civilians, and cite Germany, Britain, Japan and the United States as equally in need of remembering sins of the past. We live now in different times.

No one will ever call ours "the greatest generation," and the generations now in charge cannot understand men and women who understood that stamping out evil requires first the recognition of evil, and then the determination to stamp it out. No reluctance, no flinching, no half-way measures. No stopping the war for an environmental-impact statement.

The demand put down by Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill and taken up without caveat by Harry Truman, was "unconditional surrender." No ifs, not buts. No compromises, no negotiations, no cups of tea with diplomats at "the conference table." Just get it done.

Even after the first bomb fell on Hiroshima, Japan was not ready to surrender. Maybe the United States only had one bomb. Three days later a second bomb — which exhausted the inventory, as we learned later — fell on Nagasaki.

President Truman had warned Japan of the wrath to come: Unless Japan heeded the call to surrender, made at Potsdam in a fortnight earlier, there would be "a rain of ruin from the air, the likes of which has never been seen on this earth." That seems plain enough to plain folks, but Prof. Herken quibbles: "But there was never any specific warning to the cities that had been chosen as targets." (Or the time of day, the plane to be dispatched, or what color the bomb might be.)

History, unrevised and served without side dishes, reveals that President Truman, a man with a tutored Christian conscience, did the right thing. Until the end of a long life, he never repented of his decision to drop the bomb. Nor should he have.

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JWR contributor Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.