Leadership: Hiroshima at 75
Another Bomb, Ever?
Today is the 75th anniversary of the dropping of an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan.
The New York Times reports this year the city’s ceremonies are curtailed due to Covid-19, saying, events mark the “…destruction by the American military during World War II, and to serve as a living testament to the abiding dangers of the bomb.”
Employing the phrase “American military” is odd as the decision to use the weapon was hotly contested by senior military and diplomatic leaders; it was President Truman who made the decision with little debate or fanfare.
Many generals believed that Japan was close to defeat, so the rationale for the use of the bomb was not beating Japan but preventing U.S. casualties in another Okinawa-style invasion of the Japanese home islands.
Another persistent school of thought is the bomb was used as a show of America’s awesome destructive power as a warning to the Soviet Union.
In Truman’s Shoes
He had witnessed the deaths of 400,000 service members and grave injuries to tens-of-thousands more over six years of war which devastated the world.
He had no prior knowledge of the Manhattan project which developed the weapons and knew nothing about their existence until Roosevelt died and he was briefed as incoming president.
Japan continued to be hated and loathed in America because of their surprise attack on Pearl Harbor and their vicious actions as they overran southeast Asia.
The casualty estimates for U.S. forces in the upcoming invasion of Japan were thought to around 40,000; using the atomic weapon would potentially save those lives.
He wasted little time making the call and the rest is history.
If you are wondering about the correctness of Truman’s decision, consider what happened between August 6, 1945, and the 9th, when the second weapon was used on Nagasaki.
By about 8PM on the 6th, senior Japanese leadership, including the war cabinet, knew of the extreme destruction wrought by the new weapon.
On the 7th they did nothing, not even bothering to meet.
Same on the 8th, but they did decide to meet in cabinet the next day.
They were meeting on the 9th, with some cabinet members fervently demanding to fight to the very death of the country when word came of Nagasaki.
It was Emperor Hirohito, and not the militarists around him, who said the war was over, finally.
As we reflect on the Hiroshima anniversary, we should also reflect on the causes of war because when the genie gets out of the bottle, the consequences may be mighty.