On Thursday the world will mark, though perhaps not with proper enthusiasm, the 75th anniversary of an event that saved millions upon millions of lives both in this country and Asia. In fact, your life was very likely saved by this event.
No, it wasn’t the development and distribution of a vaccine, or an economic wonder, or the dawning of an age of total equality. It was the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan, on August 6th, 1945 that resulted in the immediate death of over 80,000 people. How did that save your life?
If you, like me, had a relative who was serving in the U.S. armed forces in World War Two, then that’s an easy question to answer. My dad was a young communications officer on the battleship U.S.S. New Jersey, serving in the Pacific at that stage of World War Two. Though the war in Europe was over, millions of men there were awaiting deployment to the Pacific for Operation Olympic, the planned invasion of Japan.
Potential allied casualties were estimated to be over one million in this invasion. Japanese casualties, given the fanatical resistance American troops had seen on islands like Iwo Jima and Okinawa, were estimated to likely surpass ten million. Every citizen of Japan, even women and children, were expected to fight and die for the Emperor, according to official Japanese policy. And there you see it.
Out of one of those one million Americans, one of the combat deaths could have been your father or grandfather. Thus, your ancestral chain is broken and you would not be reading this right now. As for Japan, she certainly would not be the economic force she is today. It would have taken generations longer for her to recover. But this cost 80,000, mostly civilian, lives. History and common sense tell us the action, as horrific as it was, was worth it given the numbers who could have died. Several days after President Harry Truman gave the final go ahead, and then after a second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, Japan surrendered and millions on both sides got a reprieve. However on Thursday, some will not understand this.
They will, in the words of Winston Churchill, not understand the difference between the fire and the fire department.
You will see them, with signs reading ‘War is never the answer” and “Give peace a chance,” whining about Hiroshima because they decry, they say, all violence. Well, there are those who would beg to disagree, not to mention, as we note above, an act of war possibly made their very existence possible.
Was war the answer if you were an inmate of a Nazi death camp and through war you were liberated by the allies? Was war the answer in this country if you were a slave held in bondage by a cavalier class too lazy and evil to work their own plantations? Yes, as odd as it may sound, righteous violence is sometimes necessary, even beneficial, to stop a greater threat to life and freedom.
So have beer, or whatever is your pleasure, on Thursday and toast Harry Truman. Have another one for the boys of the Enola Gay, who let her rip. They all saved more lives than they would ever know.