Thanks Richard Gebhardt for this, it made my day.
I’m writing this at 0300. My reason for being up at this preposterous hour is that I’m too excited to sleep. This afternoon I’m going home to spend the long weekend with my beloved Scallywag and the Doofball who will probably bite me for abandoning him so cruelly.
Yesterday was the anniversary of the dropping of the first atom bomb on Japan. I’ve been having a lively debate with my sandal wearing, organic muesli eating, herbal cigarette smoking, free-range egg throwing friends who think that it was just horrid of the nasty Americans to do such a thing to the peace-loving, chrysanthemum-growing Japanese. My argument is that the Americans didn’t do it—the Japanese did it to themselves. When the first bomb fell on Pearl Harbour, Japan’s annihilation as a military power was assured.
The merest glance at a high school history textbook will leave a reader of the slightest discernment with one very important lesson: don’t wage war against white men. This is a lesson learned the hard way over the millennia by assorted native tribes of Africa, Asia and the Americas. You see, we don’t have a tradition of ritualistic warfare in which a battle is fought, the defeated cedes to the victor some token, and everyone goes happily home. Our wars must continue until the defeated is unable to wage further war. The Japanese failed to understand this. They thought that their destruction of much of the US Pacific fleet at Pearl Harbour, together with victory over the remainder of the US carrier fleet at Midway would the force the Americans to the negotiating table and allow the Japanese free reign in the Western Pacific. Things didn’t quite work out that way at Midway, where it was the Japanese who lost the Kaga, Akagi, Hiryu and Soryu. But what if it had been the Yorktown, Hornet and Enterprise that had gone to the bottom instead?
It wouldn’t have made a blind bit of difference. America had the resources to replace them with not three but thirty new carriers. So when the allied forces had systematically cleansed the Western Pacific of Japanese forces, why didn’t they reach a negotiated peace with Japan instead of preparing to invade their home islands? We’ve said it already: it isn’t in the European tradition to treat until one side is utterly defeated—Japan had to be destroyed as a military power. Invading the Japanese home islands could only be achieved at a horrific cost in allied lives; even Japanese schoolgirls (girl-child learners for SA readers) were trained to defend their emperor with wooden spears. Fortunately for the allies, a way to avoid invasion was at hand.
The Manhattan Project was not set up with Japan in mind. It was conceived as a counter to the very real threat of Nazi Germany developing nuclear weapons. With scientists like Heisenberg and von Braun, the Nazis had the expertise to develop and deliver an atom bomb. But by August 1945 Germany was already defeated, Berlin a smouldering pile of rubble. The choice faced by the allies was a simple one: invade Japan at the cost of hundreds of thousands allied lives, or force the Japanese into unconditional surrender by dropping atom bombs on their cities. They made the decision to use the bomb. It is my contention that not only was that the correct choice, it was the only possible choice in the circumstances.
But I’m running out of battery; here endeth the history lesson.
Grumpy Old Man by Mark Widdicombe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 License.