Friday, August 05, 2005

Hanson on Hiroshima

Tomorrow, of course, is the 60th anniversary of a horrible day. I say that even though I believe the dropping of Little Boy was inevitable. 100,000 civilian casualties, no matter how necessary, no matter what the historical context, is a tough nut to swallow. The great Victor Davis Hanson offers his take:
Americans of the time hardly thought the Japanese populace to be entirely innocent. The Imperial Japanese army routinely butchered civilians abroad - some 10-15 million Chinese were eventually to perish - throughout the Pacific from the Philippines to Korea and Manchuria. Even by August 1945, the Japanese army was killing thousands of Asians each month. When earlier high-level bombing attacks with traditional explosives failed to cut off the fuel for this murderous military - industries were increasingly dispersed in smaller shops throughout civilian centers - Curtis LeMay unleashed napalm on the Japanese cities and eventually may have incinerated 500,000.
My own initial in-depth reading on World War II was the aptly named Total War, a most valuable survey by Peter Calvocoressi that sadly seems to be out of print. The concept of total warfare is foreign to any American born after WWII. Never since, not even in Vietnam, have we faced a conflict that consumed the world so completely. Civilians were indeed seen as fair game - by the Allies no less than the Axis. Population centers were routinely targeted by both sides, and eventually, by the end of the war, it hardly mattered if any military installations were in the vicinity.

We can thank God and that much-heralded generation of heroes that we have not been in a similar situation since, and may we never be again. I don't condemn the decision of Truman, but neither do I celebrate it, and I shudder to think what it must have been like to be walking down the streets of Hiroshima that grim day. Robert Oppenheimer famously said, upon seeing the successful Trinity test in the New Mexico desert, "Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds". God have mercy on their souls, and ours...

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