This week was the 70th anniversary of the United States nuking Hiroshima and as expected, there has been plenty of second guessing, attacks on America, and claims that nuking the Japanese wasn’t necessary.
Understandably perhaps, that’s how the Japanese feel. I can tell you that with certainty because back in 2008, the Japanese equivalent of PBS flew me out to New York to be part of an online discussion between a crowd of Americans and a group of people from Hiroshima. Again, perhaps understandably, the tone from the people of Hiroshima was very self-pitying. They asked us to look at pictures of Hiroshima as if we hadn’t seen them before. They talked about how devastating the attack was for them. It was like they wanted a big apology from all of America because we hit them so hard after their sneak attack.
Let me say something that a lot of people think, but don’t want to say because we’re friendly with Japan now: Japan deserved to be nuked and it deserved it ten times over.
Japan was allied with the Nazis in a war of world conquest that would have exterminated freedom and democracy across the globe if they were successful. The Japanese deliberately starved and slaughtered millions of civilians, they raped children and pregnant women, they forced families to have sex with each other for the fun of it, they tortured and experimented on prisoners of war -- and then there was Pearl Harbor.
Today, we think of the Japanese as polite people who are good at making electronics, cars and monster movies, but during WWII they were just as fanatical and evil as ISIS or Al-Qaeda. Unfortunately, they also had the military, intelligence and organization to inflict their evil on a much wider swath of the planet. They needed to be stopped by any means necessary, that’s exactly what we did and the world, INCLUDING JAPAN, is a much better place for it.
Strategically, it also made sense.
First off, Pearl Harbor needed to be avenged in a manner so terrible that it made our enemies think twice about striking our homeland again. In fact, some might argue that Japan got off light.
“When this war is over, the Japanese language will be spoken only in hell!” — Admiral Bill Halsey on December 7, 1941
Happily, it didn’t have to come to that and yet Japan was punished for what it did in a way so terrible that it will live on until the end of human history. That’s no small matter because after what we did to Japan, nobody tried going after us again on our home turf until 9/11. What’s 50+ years of going without a strike on America as devastating as Pearl Harbor or 9/11 worth? Actually, quite a lot.
Additionally, since it had become clear that Stalin might be almost as dangerous after the war as Hitler was during it, it was also important for the United States to deal with Japan instead of leaving another strategic, potentially dangerous nation to be conquered by the Soviets. Ultimately, we ended up fighting a cold war instead of a hot war against the Soviets and it’s entirely possible that our willingness to do what it took to subdue Japan scared them enough to play a significant role in that.
Most importantly, we saved hundreds of thousands of American lives. By 1945, the Japanese had essentially been defeated, but they refused to unconditionally surrender. Allowing a nation as dangerous and evil as Japan to rearm, especially after the world’s post-WWI experience with Germany, seemed like little more than an invitation to an even more brutal war in another 20 years.
Initially, America prepared for a ground invasion, but after seeing the ferocity with which Japan defended Okinawa, we realized taking Japan would cost the lives of millions of Japanese and much more importantly, hundreds of thousands of American soldiers would die in the process.
When people moan about the use of nuclear weapons in Japan, what they’re really saying is that they’d rather hundreds of thousands of American families had grown up without husbands, fathers and sons than see us use nuclear weapons on a genocidal nation bent on world conquest.
Like most people who second guess the hard choices that are made in war, critics of nuking Japan insist that everything would have just magically worked out. Japan would have just surrendered and everything would have ended without bloodshed.
Of course, back in the real world, Japan was putting all of its resources into fending off an invasion and refused to surrender even AFTER the first nuclear weapon was dropped. After the second nuclear weapon hit Nagasaki, there was an attempted coup designed to prevent that nation’s leaders from giving in. Happily it failed, but it gives you a sense of how determined the Japanese were to keep fighting.
The Japanese weren’t the victims in WWII; they were the bad guys. They were perfectly willing to create a Hell on earth as long as their Emperor got to share time with Hitler in the infernal palace and they were allowed to be his little worker demons torturing the rest of the planet. Don’t feel sorry for Japan because it got nuked; feel sorry for the all the innocent lives that were lost because of that nation’s murderous lust for power.