Armchair Quarterback Theories

Yesterday Breitbart posted an article about a recent comment by Pope Francis about the bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima that essentially ended World War II.

The article reports:

“I will soon visit Nagasaki and Hiroshima, where I will offer prayers for the victims of the catastrophic bombing of these two cities, and echo your own prophetic calls for nuclear disarmament,” the pope told an assembly of the nation’s bishops in Tokyo Saturday evening, shortly after his arrival in the country.

“I wish to meet those who still bear the wounds of this tragic episode in human history, as well as the victims of the triple disaster,” he said. “Their continued sufferings are an eloquent reminder of our human and Christian duty to assist those who are troubled in body and spirit, and to offer to all the Gospel message of hope, healing and reconciliation.”

“Evil has no preferences; it does not care about people’s background or identity,” he continued. “It simply bursts in with its destructive force, as was the case recently with the devastating typhoon that caused so many casualties and material damage.”

This past week, Francis sent a video message to the people of Japan, denouncing the use of nuclear weapons as “immoral” just prior to his departure for a six-day visit to Asia, including Thailand and Japan.

“Your country is very aware of the suffering caused by war,” said the pope in reference to the U.S. bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima in August 1945. “Together with you, I pray that the destructive power of nuclear weapons will never be unleashed again in human history.”

“Using nuclear weapons is immoral,” he said, speaking in his native Spanish.

The only part of that statement I agree with is his prayer that nuclear weapons will never be unleashed again. Unfortunately nuclear weapons are a scientific fact in our world. Unfortunately not everyone in our world cares about the human toll involved in using one.

I went to a website called Quora to find the other side of the story:

The Japanese Army effectively was the civilian government of Japan. They intended to make the war as costly as possible so that at some level they would remain in power after the war, if in a chastened, more peaceful form. They were probably right, as the US population and military was very war-weary and may have settled for a negotiated peace at some point.

The Allies, quite reasonably, thought that scenario would lead to a later war and an eventual return to conquest as Japanese foreign policy. It certainly would not have led to a free, democratic society.

This doesn’t really answer the question however. The war would definitely have been prolonged. By August 1945 the Japanese population was already on minimal rations, every harbor they had was mined and/or patrolled by submarines and larger ships. They had no real way to import oil, rubber, and the other necessities of war. They had dozens of divisions on the Asian mainland that would slowly wither away. Without the bomb, the Japanese would likely have tried to hold out longer, look for more favorable terms, and the starving Japanese population would have suffered even more greatly from privation, firebombing of all the major and most medium sized cities, and the US invasion in Operation Downfall, along with a Northern front of invading Soviet forces. If the US invasion failed, they would have maintained the bombing and blockade for a long time.

By the end of WW2 all sides had so dehumanized the enemy that it’s hard to say where the bottom was, but it would have been very bad and almost certainly worse for all sides than the state of affairs after the surrender.

World peace is a wonderful idea as is a world without nuclear weapons, but neither idea is rooted in reality. Reality is that there are those among us who want unlimited power and are not necessarily concerned about how they get it. Throughout history we have seen examples of that–Hitler, Mao, Stalin, Lenin, Pol Pot, etc. Until human nature changes (which it won’t), the good guys need the best weapons to protect the world from tyranny.

The Real Cost Of War

I have a friend who was born in Japan in the late 1930’s. She is now an American citizen. A few years ago she shared her story with a local newspaper. I would like to share some highlights of her story here.

In March of 1945, she and one of her sisters were sent away from Tokyo to her grandparents’ home in Miyazaki on Kyushu to keep them safe. Her father remained behind. Her father was a high-ranking officer in the Japanese military.

She shares a story of a day at her grandparents’ home when she was pretending to go to school (her sisters went, but she was still too young) and heard the air raid warning siren. She laid down on the concrete road as flat as she could, then ran home as soon as the airplanes passed. Following that incident, she stayed close to her grandparents’ home where she could seek shelter in the bushes in the backyard.

During the time at her grandparents’ house, she traveled to Hiroshima with her mother and sisters to see cousins. While there, her mother received a call from her father to leave immediately. Her mother quickly left and returned to Miyazaki. The family later learned that their cousins had been killed in the bombing of Hiroshima.

She then traveled with her mother and sisters to visit friends in Nagasaki. Within two days of their arrival, her father called and told them to return to Miyazaki. They later found out that the friends they were visiting in Nagasaki were killed in the bombing.

She shares the story of spending a lot of time in an underground bunker at her grandparents’ home. They were in the bunker when they heard the news of the Japanese surrender. The day after the announcement, her father called and asked the family to return to Tokyo immediately. They boarded a train to Tokyo and were treated very well when some of the military officers on board recognized them and realized that they were related to their former superior officer (her father). They were escorted to the front of the train where there were soldiers carrying square wooden boxes wrapped in white scarves. Each soldier had an empty seat next to him reserved for his wooden box. Each box contained the ashes of a fallen soldier. In her story, she notes that as the train passed through Hiroshima, all the shutters were drawn so that the passengers could not see the devastation.

When the family arrived back in Tokyo, there were only a handful of houses left standing. Everything was flat and burnt.

There is more to the story. The lady telling this story was the daughter of a high-ranking Japanese officer who attempted to persuade the emperor to end the war in order to avoid the bombing of Japan that he knew was coming. Obviously the emperor ignored the advice. Her father was eventually relieved of his command just before the end of World War II.

I share this story for a number of reasons. The main reason is to illustrate that although war is sometimes necessary, it is a horrible thing. It has a great impact on the society and culture that is involved in the fighting. The bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was a horrible first step into the atomic age, but without those bombs, many more lives would have been lost and the Japanese culture would have probably been destroyed as a result of an invasion of Japan.

The lesson here is that although war is a horrible thing, there are times when it must be fought. When it is fought, it must be fought hard in order to end quickly the death and destruction that it brings. That is the lesson we seem to have forgotten since the days of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I hope we never see another atomic bomb dropped, but I also hope we have the wisdom and courage to do what we need to do in order to end quickly any war that we must fight.

Reporting Spin Instead Of History

Yesterday Yahoo News posted a timeline of President Obama’s visit to Japan. The timeline included the following:

6:10 p.m.

President Barack Obama has signed a guest book and laid a wreath during his historic visit to Hiroshima and its memorial park.

Here is what he wrote:

“We have known the agony of war. Let us now find the courage, together, to spread peace, and pursue a world without nuclear weapons.”

The United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima during the closing days of World War II, killing some 140,000 people.

Obama is the first sitting U.S. president to visit Hiroshima.

He also laid a wreath near the base of an arched memorial in Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.

Please reread the italics. The reason it was the closing days of World War II was that the two bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki ended the war.]

In 2006, The Free Republic posted the following:

Invasion Not Found in the History Books

Deep in the recesses of the National Archives in Washington, D.C., hidden for nearly four decades lie thousands of pages of yellowing and dusty documents stamped “Top Secret”. These documents, now declassified, are the plans for Operation Downfall, the invasion of Japan during World War II. Only a few Americans in 1945 were aware of the elaborate plans that had been prepared for the Allied Invasion of the Japanese home islands. Even fewer today are aware of the defenses the Japanese had prepared to counter the invasion had it been launched. Operation Downfall was finalized during the spring and summer of 1945. It called for two massive military undertakings to be carried out in succession and aimed at the heart of the Japanese Empire.

In the first invasion – code named Operation Olympic – American combat troops would land on Japan by amphibious assault during the early morning hours of November 1, 1945 – 50 years ago. Fourteen combat divisions of soldiers and Marines would land on heavily fortified and defended Kyushu, the southernmost of the Japanese home islands, after an unprecedented naval and aerial bombardment.

The second invasion on March 1, 1946 – code named Operation Coronet – would send at least 22 divisions against 1 million Japanese defenders on the main island of Honshu and the Tokyo Plain. It’s goal: the unconditional surrender of Japan. With the exception of a part of the British Pacific Fleet, Operation Downfall was to be a strictly American operation. It called for using the entire Marine Corps, the entire Pacific Navy, elements of the 7th Army Air Force, the 8 Air Force (recently redeployed from Europe), 10th Air Force and the American Far Eastern Air Force. More than 1.5 million combat soldiers, with 3 million more in support or more than 40% of all servicemen still in uniform in 1945 – would be directly involved in the two amphibious assaults. Casualties were expected to be extremely heavy.

Admiral William Leahy estimated that there would be more than 250,000 Americans killed or wounded on Kyushu alone. General Charles Willoughby, chief of intelligence for General Douglas MacArthur, the Supreme Commander of the Southwest Pacific, estimated American casualties would be one million men by the fall of 1946. Willoughby’s own intelligence staff considered this to be a conservative estimate.

During the summer of 1945, America had little time to prepare for such an endeavor, but top military leaders were in almost unanimous agreement that an invasion was necessary.

While naval blockade and strategic bombing of Japan was considered to be useful, General MacArthur, for instance, did not believe a blockade would bring about an unconditional surrender. The advocates for invasion agreed that while a naval blockade chokes, it does not kill; and though strategic bombing might destroy cities, it leaves whole armies intact.

So on May 25, 1945, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, after extensive deliberation, issued to General MacArthur, Admiral Chester Nimitz, and Army Air Force General Henry Arnold, the top secret directive to proceed with the invasion of Kyushu. The target date was after the typhoon season.

President Truman approved the plans for the invasions July 24. Two days later, the United Nations issued the Potsdam Proclamation, which called upon Japan to surrender unconditionally or face total destruction. Three days later, the Japanese governmental news agency broadcast to the world that Japan would ignore the proclamation and would refuse to surrender. During this same period it was learned — via monitoring Japanese radio broadcasts — that Japan had closed all schools and mobilized its schoolchildren, was arming its civilian population and was fortifying caves and building underground defenses.

…In addition to the use of poison gas and bacteriological warfare (which the Japanese had experimented with), Japan mobilized its citizenry.

Had Olympic come about, the Japanese civilian population, inflamed by a national slogan – “One Hundred Million Will Die for the Emperor and Nation” – were prepared to fight to the death. Twenty Eight Million Japanese had become a part of the National Volunteer Combat Force. They were armed with ancient rifles, lunge mines, satchel charges, Molotov cocktails and one-shot black powder mortars. Others were armed with swords, long bows, axes and bamboo spears. The civilian units were to be used in nighttime attacks, hit and run maneuvers, delaying actions and massive suicide charges at the weaker American positions.

At the early stage of the invasion, 1,000 Japanese and American soldiers would be dying every hour.

The invasion of Japan never became a reality because on August 6, 1945, an atomic bomb was exploded over Hiroshima. Three days later, a second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. Within days the war with Japan was at a close.

Had these bombs not been dropped and had the invasion been launched as scheduled, combat casualties in Japan would have been at a minimum of the tens of thousands. Every foot of Japanese soil would have been paid for by Japanese and American lives.

One can only guess at how many civilians would have committed suicide in their homes or in futile mass military attacks.

In retrospect, the 1 million American men who were to be the casualties of the invasion, were instead lucky enough to survive the war.

Intelligence studies and military estimates made 50 years ago, and not latter-day speculation, clearly indicate that the battle for Japan might well have resulted in the biggest blood-bath in the history of modern warfare.

Far worse would be what might have happened to Japan as a nation and as a culture. When the invasion came, it would have come after several months of fire bombing all of the remaining Japanese cities. The cost in human life that resulted from the two atomic blasts would be small in comparison to the total number of Japanese lives that would have been lost by this aerial devastation.

With American forces locked in combat in the south of Japan, little could have prevented the Soviet Union from marching into the northern half of the Japanese home islands. Japan today cold be divided much like Korea and Germany.

The world was spared the cost of Operation Downfall, however, because Japan formally surrendered to the United Nations September 2, 1945, and World War II was over.

The aircraft carriers, cruisers and transport ships scheduled to carry the invasion troops to Japan, ferried home American troops in a gigantic operation called Magic Carpet.

In the fall of 1945, in the aftermath of the war, few people concerned themselves with the invasion plans. Following the surrender, the classified documents, maps, diagrams and appendices for Operation Downfall were packed away in boxes and eventually stored at the National Archives. These plans that called for the invasion of Japan paint a vivid description of what might have been one of the most horrible campaigns in the history of man. The fact that the story of the invasion of Japan is locked up in the National Archives and is not told in our history books is something for which all Americans can be thankful. 

(The italics in the above quote are mine.)Sometimes when you fight evil, you have to fight hard. I am not saying that the people of Japan are evil, I am saying that they were under the influence of evil leaders. The Japanese leaders began the path to the atomic bombing of Hiroshima with the rape of Nanking. They continued on that path with the attack on Pearl Harbor. The journey was filled with stories of mistreatment of Americans and other prisoners taken and/or killed. The dropping of the atomic bombs was necessary. Without it, many more people would have been killed in the invasion of Japan, and there is a strong possibility that in the destruction of the country, the Japanese culture would have been lost. The dropping of the atomic bomb was a horrible event, but it was a necessary event.