Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

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Lenin’s Tomb has a fantastic post on the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki today, taking as his starting point this unfortunate but telling historical-cultural truth:

I think it’s telling that on this, as on a number of issues (Israel/Palestine for example), public opinion is kept so far in the dark for so long by historical mythology that is only belatedly undermined by revisionism and declassification that it results in such a massive gulf between what is academically known and what is generally understood. It is particularly the case on matters where historical events matter most for contemporary understanding.

But it’s the sheer raw data that makes this post so important, necessary and good.

The main findings of revisionist scholarship coincide with those of the United States Strategic Bombing Survey of 1946, which concluded (in a widely quoted statement) that: “certainly prior to 31 December 1945, and in all probability prior to 1 November 1945, Japan would have surrendered even if the atomic bombs had not been dropped, even if Russia had not entered the war, and even if no invasion had been planned or contemplated.” Now, since there is no doubt that Russia would have entered the war on 15th August 1945, it would seem probable on the basis of that conclusion that a surrender could have been achieved even more quickly than this. And since the planned invasion by ground would not have occurred before 1 November 1945 (it was scheduled for the Spring of 1946), the claim that the bomb saved 500,000 lives that would have been lost in such an invasion doesn’t seem to be supportable. A second document, declassified in the Seventies, is a War Department study on the ‘Use of Atomic Bomb on Japan’ written in 1946. It found that “the Japanese leaders had decided to surrender and were merely looking for sufficient pretext to convince the die-hard Army Group that Japan had lost the war and must capitulate to the Allies.” Even an early landinglanding on the southern Japanese island of Kyushu would have been only a ‘remote’ possibility, while the full invasion of Japan in the spring of 1946 would not have occurred. In fact, the belief that it was totally unnecessary to use the atomic bomb on Japan’s cities was shared by Eisenhower, who records telling Stimson that “Japan was already defeated and that dropping the bombs was completely unnecessary” and by Admiral William D Leahy, who opined that “the use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender.”

There’s a lot here, and for many people out there it isn’t new—but it’s still important.

If you finish there and you still want more, I’m happy to re-recommend Sven Lindqvist’s A History of Bombing, the best book on the subject of aerial warfare I’ve ever read—”Airplanes and imperialism, genocide and global thermonuclear war: if you want to know the history of the twentieth century, this is the only book you need“—or else John Harvey’s Hiroshima, the classic on the subject, which I finally read earlier this summer and was quite impressed by.

Written by gerrycanavan

August 9, 2007 at 1:59 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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