Nagasaki, the Forgotten City

The survivors, long overshadowed by those of Hiroshima, demand to be heard.

Comments: 168

  1. The Nagasaki bomb was almost twice as powerful as the Hiroshima bomb, 21 kilotons vs 13 kilotons.

    The effect of the Nagasaki bomb was more concentrated. The shape of the city confined the blast inside heights around it. A confined blast is usually more damaging than a less confined blast, so this further enhanced the effect of the already more powerful bomb.

    The shape of the city also concentrated the people, and so concentrated them right in the worst of the blast.

    Hiroshima was first. Nagasaki was worst.

    Americans reveled in the power revealed by the atomic bomb, hence the first use was highlighted.

    Americans were not so proud of what the bombs actually did in detail to the victims, hence the worst effects of the worst bomb were no so highlighted.

  2. This is a story that we must have the courage to keep alive for our own well being. The nation of Germany has shown a great deal of introspection on the evils of the Nazi party and to ensure that it never happens again. Have we learned such a lesson by the senseless killing of thousands of Japanese? Why is this story minimized. If we are to absorb this story into our collective consciousness we must also own that we are capable of great atrocities. It is a difficult but humbling lesson that we must be willing to learn

  3. Comparing the A-bomb attacks, which arguably ended the war sooner, to the Nazi atrocities is a morally and logically dubious position. Indeed, Southard's own piece indicates that the Nagasaki bombing took place at a time when the Japanese were still hoping for better surrender terms.

  4. So you would compare the U.S. to Nazi Germany? Perhaps we should apologize for Dresden? We should remember Nagasaki for the horror of the effect of nuclear weapons and no to revise history based on what we know today. The Japanese war machine carried out the senseless killings of hundreds of thousands and put the same numbers into virtual slavery.

    We should keep the learning on the devastation that could be unleashed at any time, but at the same time, honor our successful efforts to defeat a terrible enemy.

    "Remember Pearl Harbor"

  5. I was a little girl when the war ended. However, there were young girls who arrived in San Francisco; they were known as the Hiroshima Maidens. They suffered from radiation. My mother talked about them. Not sure when they arrived, but it is not true that no Americans knew about the results of the bombings in Japan. My uncles who were captains on aircraft carriers and fought in the battle of Midway were relieved when the war ended. They had no regrets about the A bombs. The legacy is what we now know about nuclear weapons. It stopped Edward Teller from convincing UC Berkeley to work on the H Bomb. He thought it would be a good weapon to have. The Livermore Rad Lab did not agree.

  6. Bad decisions followed by censorship and establishing a favorable narrative is familiar and disturbing. We should demand a Jimmy Stewart straight shooter ethic from our tax payer supported entities.

  7. The bomb dropped on Nagasaki was an atomic bomb, NOT a nuclear bomb.

  8. I'm puzzled by your comment. An atom is a heavy nucleus surrounded by many electrons (very light particles). It is the splitting of the nucleus that releases the huge energy that causes the destruction. The electrons play no role at all.

  9. To be pedantic, they were fission bombs.

  10. All atomic bombs are nuclear weapons, Lynn Jehle, even as all nuclear weapons are not atomic bombs.

    Some nuclear weapons are thermonuclear weapons, AKA, hydrogen bombs.

    Thermonuclear weapons are also know as fusion bombs, while atomic bombs are fission bombs. But again, both fission and fusion bombs are nuclear bombs.

    Hydrogen bombs are many times more powerful than atomic bombs, and in fact, h-bombs use small atomic bombs as triggering devices.

  11. The Japanese hawks, who were in charge after the first bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, tried to rationalize a reason against surrender, despite the devastation. Japan had the knowledge to build their own atomic bomb, but they lacked the raw materials. Their leaders assumed that even though the United States had managed to make one bomb, they theorized that the U.S. lacked materials to make two. Truman, and his brain-trust, assumed as much before dropping the bomb on Hiroshima, but hoped not to have to use second bomb. Had Russia declared war on Japan before August 9, 1945, instead of on the very day of the attack on Nagasaki, making Japan's position impossible, maybe the second bomb would never have dropped

  12. judgeroybean
    This is an abstract thought of no consolation to the people of Japan, and those who care.

  13. Nagasaki is indeed the forgotten city and this tragic anniversary should be used by Kerry, Obama and Abe even ambassador Carolyn Kennedy to renounce nuclear arms and militarism.

    If all leaders could only say we are sorry for the tragic loss of civilian lives. The loss of life due to indiscrimanate fire bombing, and lack of protection of civilians, it is a hallmark of WWII. If only America & Asia could learn from history perhaps Asia and America would be a more peaceful places.

    Japan needs to apalogize to for use of biological and nerve agents on Chinese that killed equally as many! They need not "cover up" historically comfort women or slave labor.

    How can we the stongest nation say "never again" to this and learn from history?

    I say apologize to the people and survivors in Nagasaki!

    Come on Carolyn your naval officer and President father would be proud of you JUST DO IT!

  14. I disagree in part, but this comment is well said and heartfelt. The challenge of nuclear disarmament is how can you convince aggressive yet paranoid powers like China and Russia to "give up the bomb".

    Putin ignoring previous Soviet policy now openly threatens NATO with nuclear weapons. I fear only with a dramatic change in leadership in Moscow and Beijing, will disarmament become conceivable.

    Look, if the only nuclear powers where the US, UK, and France... eliminating nuclear weapons would a piece of cake. If the world consisted of liberal democracies... militaries themselves could be cut back to coast guards and honor guards.

  15. My father survived the battle of Leyte Gulf and other Pacific battles and could only recount the horror of kamikaze bombers 40 years later. It is noble and worthy that the hibakusha struggle for a nuclear-free world, but I find the author's post-modern, reductionist notion of "narrative" to parse the nuclear bombing decisions of 1945 as facile. Never forget the brutality and viciousness of the Japanese Imperial troops: ask Manchuria, Korea, Nanjing, and the POWs in southeast Asia just to name a few. Did the people of Nagasaki deserve to pay for the sins of their troops? No. But a terrorized Asia and traumatized American troops probably felt, at the time, that only using such a force would bring what they saw as an evil, terrorizing regime to surrender.

  16. The nuclear weapon, the most horrible device that man has ever developed, is evil and a great threat to our world. Nations which maintain such weapons are at the very least immoral and criminal, particularly the US and Russia.

    It is time that these weapons, which threaten all existence, are eliminated. This will happen when people across the earth demand that they be eliminated.

  17. And yet your President has assured that Iran, the great supporter of terrorism, will have one in the not too distant future. Imagine ISIS will a nuclear device. It is not beyond imagination.

  18. Thank you, Ms. Southard, for helping keep alive this tragic history of Nagasaki's unnecessary destruction and the profound, and needless, lifelong suffering of the Hibakusha. Given efforts within Japan's conservative political class to revise history and promote increased militarization, the passing of each witness to both nuclear holocausts represents the snuffing out of individual, powerful lights of truth. We need every one of their memories to be recorded and repeated for posterity lest we repeat the past.

  19. "Mr. Taniguchi seethed in anger at what he believed was the unnecessary nuclear devastation of his city and its people."

    Does he ever go to Pearl Harbor and watch the oil bubbling up from the Arizona which was sitting peacefully in the harbor when his people torpedoed it sending every seamen to his death? And the first bomb dropped on Hiroshima was not enough to commit surrender of japan by his rulers. Does he seeth in anger over that? Perhaps he ought to be grateful the USA did not drop a nuclear bomb onto mainland Japan.

  20. Statues grieve on such occasions as the doom of Nagasaki. Angels weep when they hear what is sometimes spoken from the dark hearts of humanity.

  21. I am 70. I have always been haunted by Nagasaki -- no matter how slippery the putative logic, no one can justify bombing Nagasaki. And that my own country has never come to the slightest atonement for these most grotesque acts in history haunts and hunts me.

    How can the dreadmotif of our whole foreign policy not be to first rid the planet of these grim and vicious weapons? We have never even begun to face the scale of what we wrought. I know. In the history text book for high school that I held in my teacher's hands was a bland paragraph with no mention of any Sumiteru Taniguchi, not one mote of the brutality so distanced from the perpetrators of such ghastly weapons.

    We have to examine, to accept the shame, and weep gasping and choking in a wracking sorrow we turn to dogged action to end this scourge upon our Mother Earth.

  22. Wendy, I was alive when Nagasaki was bombed.
    Many in my family were saved from further fighting because of the bomb.
    You are a fool to dump your haunting on those who really fought to save our freedom and our live.

  23. The horrors of war are manifold and the atrocities of WW2 were widespread. The suffering of the Dutch serving in colonial Indonesia is just one manifestation. My mother and father were in Japanese camps for the duration of WW2. Women and children transported around parts of Indonesia on trains in inhumane conditions were literally kicked off the train as they died. (Ronny Herman de Jong, Inez Hollander, Annelex Hofstra Layson, are among those who have written about this). My father worked as a forced laborer in mines and shipyards in Nagasaki. He was in a mine when the bomb dropped. His friend, Jan de Vries, father of six, had just died a month before. There were many travesties which survivors learned about upon their liberation which cast a terrible pall over their freedom. Our family has embraced former enemies and we seek world peace.

  24. This article is absolute nonsense. In wars people die. People including innocents. The history is clear. More would have died without the bomb, on both sides, And to this day we would probably have a "North Japan," a bigger brother of North Korea. We all regret the necessity of the use of the bomb, and we have not used it since. But it ended the war, the killing, and on terms that turned out to be very favorable to both the American and the Japanese people.

  25. Ms. Southard is correct in her recounting of history, but cherry-picks to make her point.
    Here is just one tidbit that she leaves out: The Hibakusha, bomb- blast victims, are mostly silent as a group because they are socially ostracized in Japan, for not having died. Readers may have found this interesting, but it would have weakened Ms. Southard's message.
    Life is not all black and white.

  26. Tony
    This is not a day for cherry-picking and tidbits to sugar coat and dilute a message to Planet Earth and its People.

  27. With all due sympathy for the victims of Nagasaki, I can only wonder why more ire isn't directed at the members of the Supreme War Council and its head, the Showa emperor (then Hirohito). It seems Ms. Southard is close to claiming the US would have bombed Nagasaki even if Japan had surrendered after Hiroshima (the US pressed them for exactly that).
    Roosevelt had made it clear that, unlike WWI, the allies would only accept 'total surrender' from the defeated Axis powers and yet Japan's leaders plotted to 'sue for peace' even after Hiroshima.
    I'm sorry, but Ms. Southard's revisionism (what was the "pre-bomb" estimate for US deaths in a theoretical ground invasion?) gives succor to Japan's present day right wingers who want to find blame in everyone EXCEPT Hirohito and his advisers.
    We can amply mark the anniversary of the horrific event with sympathy for the victims and a pledge to never let such a thing happen again, but do we have to rewrite history too?
    The very same Truman that Ms. Southard portrays as a cold-blooded sadist said "no" to using the bomb at MacArthur's urging just 7 years later, culminating in his firing of the wildly popular general and probably destroying any chances of re-election. 10 years later, Lyndon Johnson, bloody as his hands already were, refused to consider the use of nuclear weapons against North Vietnam at the urging of some of the Joint Chiefs.
    It seems even us knuckle-dragging Americans are capable of learning something.

  28. Well said. The atomic bombs where horrific events ad should never fade in memory, but the decision by Truman to use them must be judge in the context of WWII, even of Japan's fall to murderous right-wing radicals, the assassinations, the attempted coups, the invasion of China in a savage yet fruitless war, and finally embarking on a utterly disastrous war with the US and Britain. Let's hope and pray that atomic bombs are never use, let's hope and pray that we never fight a war such as WWII.

  29. The generations of the millennium will remember the Nagasaki bomb and survivors

  30. An important point Southard makes is that the Japanese were already trying to agree on surrender terms before either nuclear attack. The sticking point was apparently the continuance of Hirohito as emperor, as she mentions. When the USSR got into the war and attacked Japanese troops is Manchuria, it was clearly all over for Japan, and both Tokyo and Washington knew that.

    The ultimate surrender terms allowed Hirohito to continue. This implies that the two atomic attacks achieved nothing at all, either in terms of the content or timing of the surrender terms. The Japanese were about to surrender anyway.

    The "million lives" line was pure lies and the bombings were totally criminal. They did establish the US as the biggest and baddest bully on the planet, however.

  31. That oversimplifies an incredibly complex situation inside the Japanese government. There were questions of assassinations, attempts to steal the Emperor's recording of the surrender before broadcast, and suicides of those who lost out in the decision. It was chaos, of the most deadly sort, in a country which in the last decade the Army's junior officers had assassinated major political figures.

  32. Everything is in the eyes of the beholder isn't it? Had Japan not bombed Pearl Harbor we wouldn't have done what we did. It was war and war is ugly. Who are we most not even born to decide what should have been done. Thankfully the generation that was there took care of us.

  33. Yours is a conjecture. Hirohito's status was of god, not just political leader. He lost his status as a god. Had we not nuked them, and yes I believe it was racist, the Japanese would have fought on. In that sense it might have been in their best interests.

  34. Of course we could have just continued to fight and lost how many more of our lives before they decided to stop.

  35. You can always find a military officer to disagree with the standing orders in any battle of any war. Unfortunately The Nation is lost in a crapstorm of PC irrelevance these days. This is the publication that thinks Ed Snowden is some kind of saint, and that falls all over itself to coddle every PC notion the most goofy hard left fanatic can dream up.

  36. The military officers in question were the senior commanders- Admiral Nimitz and General MacArthur ran the Pacific War and were in a position to know. Admiral Nimitz publicly stated in Washington that is was unnecessary shortly after the war- hardly a PC opinion by a "hard-left fanatic".

    The man who made the decision (Truman) was a fluke of history with a High School Diploma that had no knowledge of the existence of the Atomic Bomb 4 months previous to ordering it's use.

    As to your comments regarding The Nation, is on the left politically, but hardly hard left and not fanatic by any reasonable standard. As a subscriber to the NYT, LAT, WaPo, The Economist, and the FT, I think I have a pretty good grasp of the left-right spectrum.

  37. Did Mr. Taniguchi seethe in anger at the government that started the war that led to this destruction. Probably not. Did he seethe in anger that his government was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands maybe millions of innocent people at the hands of the bloodthirsty Japanese military? Probably not. Was being killed by an A Bomb any worse than thousands being cooked alive by the unrelenting incendiary attacks on Japan's major cities? 1,000,000 in Tokyo on one night alone. I don't know. Should I feel bad about that whilst Japan still refuses to face up to the barbarity that it unleashed on the world? Sorry I don't.

  38. I don't think Mr. Taniguchi wants you to feel bad, since the piece clearly states that his intention is not to engender sympathy or minimize Japanese culpability or savagery, but instead to "eliminate ignorance about the realities of nuclear war and to eradicate nuclear stockpiles across the globe." When I was growing up I bought the party line: The A-bomb ended WWII; later I accepted the newer line: the bomb hastened the end of the war and saved lives. Now I'm the same age as all the babies born on August 9, 1945, and I believe neither. Instead, our leader wanted to show their leader his new war toy...and did. And as always, the leaders come out unscathed while the followers suffer. I applaud Mr. Taniguchi's efforts and his choice to transmute his bitterness and anger into something positive. Obviously not everyone is ready to do the same.

  39. I visited Nagasaki and saw the Atomic Bomb Museum, Peace Park and the Peace Memorial. I learned some things Americans never hear, which changed my mind completely.

    The hypocenter of the bomb explosion was above the Urakami Cathedral (Catholic) and a number of schools and hospitals. It exploded mid-day, so all those schoolchildren were incinerated in their seats. It cannot be argued 'collateral damage,' when the hypocenter was civilian.

    Nagasaki was on and off the target list several times, and then it seems, it became the target almost literal at the last moment, after a primary target was rejected, because of cloud cover. But it was on the target list.

    There is a radio recording of Truman describing Hiroshima as a 'military target.' He had nothing to say about Nagasaki. Kyoto was preserved as a cultural treasure, Nagasaki was expendable.

    It has been said many times that history is written by the victors, which explains why this was never a war crime.

    The Japanese do not raise this point, they only want to see that a nuclear bomb is never used again. I think the least we can do is acknowledge what was done on August 9, 1945.

  40. "Acknowledge"? No problem. The USA obliterated two Japanese cities so they would not try this type of war mongering again. If others got the message, so much the better. It is not a secret.

  41. By my understanding, the use of a weapon of mass destruction on a civilian target is a war crime. By that standard the Atomic Bombings were violations of the laws regarding land warfare. The same could be said for the firebombing of Tokyo, Dresden and elsewhere.
    Robert McNamara stated in the film The Fog of War that had the US lost in the Pacific, LeMay and others would have been charged as war criminals. Mr McNamara served in the US Army Air Forces under LeMay and later was Secretary of Defense under Kennedy and Johnson.

  42. " Nagasaki was expendable. "

    That would be a decision made by the Japanese at the beginning of hostilities.

  43. The Japanese military strategy was to inflict so many casualties on the US that we would negotiate an armistice through which much of the existing Japanese militarized regime could survive. Having correctly guessed that the initial US landing would be on the beaches at the tip of Kyushu, they prepared a defense which would have had almost parity in numbers to the invading US forces. This was not fully realized by the US until after the surrender when the US gained access to the Japanese plans.

    After Hiroshima, there was still hope that the US had limited atomic weapons and that the US would still invade. The Nagasaki bomb undercut that hope and the war cabinet, especially the Emperor, now feared that the US could stand off, save her troops, and just bomb Japan into oblivion.

    Two other facts are often overlooked, the Japanese had troops all over the Asian theater of war including a 2.5 million man army, fully armed and supplied in China, whose leader protested the Emperor's order, but reluctantly complied. Without the Emperor's express order, the war could have lasted for years longer.

    Also, hundreds of thousands were dying each month all over Asia because of the war. For instance, Japanese occupied Vietnam was suffering a famine, which could not be alleviated because of the war. Those poor souls who died or suffered injury because of the bombs - less than one month's death toll elsewhere - were sacrificed by the failure of the Japanese government to surrender.

  44. I was born in April 1945, and can't claim to have heard about Hiroshima and Nagasaki when the bombs were dropped. But I grew up in a state, Utah, where both names were always mentioned together, and in a religion, Mormonism, whose leader had condemned the bombings as the crowning barbarism of war.

    John Hersey's book "Hiroshima," which I read soon after its publication (yeah, I was a precocious child), most likely as a Readers' Digest Condensed Book, may have done more to focus American attention on the first bombing, but out here in Utah, where large parts of the state can seem like the aftermath of a nuclear explosion -- and where, in fact, Walter M. Miller Jr. set his post-apocalyptic novel _A Canticle for Leibowitz_ -- we never forgot that there were two bombs dropped on two cities.

    Nagasaki should not be forgotten, but as long as people like Paul Fussell write books like Thank God for the Atom Bomb and continue with the argument that dropping the bombs saved American lives, it will be under-appreciated and not understood.

  45. Thanks for an interesting piece.

    What happened in Nagasaki was a tragedy. However sad though it may be, I would argue that the use of the atomic bombs was driven by political and military necessity. First and foremost, you have to put yourself in the shoes of one Harry S Truman. Here is a man only recently risen to the Presidency and charged with finishing out the World War.

    Truman was presented with a weapon of immense power and a looming invasion of the Japanese home islands that had a potentially huge casualty toll. Casualties in places like Iwo Jima and Okinawa had been terribly high and the expectation was that an invasion of Japan would be as bloody if not more so. Half a million Purple Hearts were ordered in advance of Operation Downfall; those very medals are still being issued.

    For Truman, I think the decision was made for him by circumstances. For a President to fail to use all the arms at his disposal before launching an invasion might well have led to his impeachment. Unfortunately for the people of Nagasaki, the arms at his disposal included the atomic bomb.

    We will never know for certain whether the Nagasaki attack was necessary. Perhaps the Soviet entry into the war made more of a difference, perhaps not. The case against is that the Soviets did not possess the means to launch a large amphibious force; while they threatened territory the Japanese took from others, they couldn't invade Japan itself; the US could.

  46. Homage to Nagasaki on this solemn day of remembrance. Its people and its City - the dead, the survivors, and the sufferers. We have witnesses and testimonies, while I wonder where the children have gone and the birds are silent.

    An American once wrote that when the bomb exploded over Nagasaki from a sunny sky, it looked like a photograph taken by God. I never believed again, but I believe Mr. Taniguchi.

  47. This was a war that we did not start, but we had to finish if we wished to preserve our way of life. There is always a risk in starting a war that you might not win it. And, regardless of whether you win or lose, there is always a terrible cost in terms of lives lost. The leaders of Japan certainly knew this when they attacked Pearl Harbor.

    It is easy to talk about whether we needed to use atomic bombs to help end the war. We can second guess as much as we want about this was really necessary. The fact is, however, that the Japanese surrendered very quickly after the use of these weapons, and the war ended.

    There are many people alive in the United States today who would not be here if their fathers and grandfathers were killed in a mainland assault on Japan. Someone needs to speak for these fathers and grandfathers and remind us that they did not die, as many certainly would have, in the continuation of a war that we did not start but that ended quickly after we used atomic weapons.

  48. Someone needs to speak from a perspective other than a misguided, myopic individualism. For many reasons, I am glad my father wasn't killed invading Japan, but was his life more valuable than that of others?

    Reading and challenging history is not second-guessing. This very ugly part of our past is critical to understanding our present.

  49. "There are many people alive in the United States today who would not be here if their fathers and grandfathers were killed in a mainland assault on Japan."

    Well, I am one of them. My late father was with the 44th Infantry Division and fought in Europe. He rarely talked about the horrors he experienced there and the friends he lost. I did learn that after the Nazi's were defeated, the war was not over for my my dad. He came back to the USA and trained with thousands of other troops for the invasion of Japan. When the atomic bombs were dropped, the war ended, and my dad finally went home. He was 27 years old.

    The atomic bomb attacks on Japan were horrible events and there are many arguments for and against their use in WWII. But I am writing this just to remind readers the USA was very serious about invading Japan.

  50. For long it has been known that, contrary to claims, the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki had very little to do with forcing Japan to surrender. Documents show that both President Truman and Churchill knew from July that Japan had called for terms of surrender and would have surrendered without dropping those awful bombs. The use of the bombs was more to do with preventing Japan to fall to Soviet forces. It was also to test the bombs, hence the use of a uranium and a plutonium bombs. Above all, the use of the bombs was the first shot in the Cold war to tell the Soviets who was the boss. The death of hundreds of thousands of civilians meant little to the leaders.

    It is true that wars are horrible and many more people died as the result of the fire bombings of Dresden, Hamburg, Tokyo and many other Japanese cities than due to the atomic bombs. However, what the bombs did was to usher in a new era in human history, the nuclear age. We now have the power to destroy the world many times over. At that time America had a monopoly of nuclear bombs and unwisely used them instead of banning them, but now nine countries possess those weapons. We have grown blasé living with the bombs. The deterrent effect of the bombs will work until it fails, and that would be the end of human civilization as we know it. It is time that we waged a serious campaign to put an end to these awful weapons, because if we do not destroy them they will sure destroy us.

  51. Frank 95 - "Documents show that both President Truman and Churchill knew from July that Japan had called for terms of surrender and would have surrendered without dropping those awful bombs."

    The NYT gives this comment a NYT Picks? Has the NYT ever published excerpts of these "documents" that show what Frank 95 contends?

    "For long it has been known that, contrary to claims, the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki had very little to do with forcing Japan to surrender."

    How long and who has known? Where is the proof? Is there a conspiracy of silence?

  52. Tired of Hypocrisy - There are too many documents to prove that both Churchill and Truman knew in July that the Japanese emperor had sued for peace, but I cannot quote them all here. Just one example, Truman noted in his diary on July 18, “Stalin had told P.M. [Churchill] of telegram from Jap [sic] Emperor asking for peace.” For more examples read Robert Ferrel’s “Off the Record – the Private Papers of Harry Truman” (1997), and Winston Churchill, “Triumph and Tragedy”.

  53. "For long it has been known that, contrary to claims, the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki had very little to do with forcing Japan to surrender. "

    Your claims are based on the nuances of diplomatic speak. The fact that Japan wasn't waving white flags from north to south after the first bombing at Hiroshima tells one what they need to know. The Japanese government brought this on themselves. Did the bombings prevent Soviet occupation after the war? Yes. So we have another positive results of the bombings.

    "Documents show that both President Truman and Churchill knew from July that Japan had called for terms of surrender and would have surrendered without dropping those awful bombs."
    Sure Japan would have surrendered eventually. When you are threatened with overwhelming military power, "mokusatsu" is not the action to take.
    It's hard for many progressive thinkers to admit, but Japan just plain "messed up".

  54. The author's ridiculing of esitmates of grievous American casualties if Japan had been invaded raises 2 questions she should answer:

    1. The invasion of Okinawa--a far smaller and less well-defended place than Japan--had just cost over 60,000 Allied casualties: what small multiple of that does she claim invading Japan would have entailed and why?

    2. How many tens or hundreds of thousands of American deaths in invading Japan (and note that Allied military and civilian casualties in China, the Phillippines and elsewhere were numbering in the thousdands a day as well) is she suggesting should have been accepted to avoid using the bombs?

    Of course, the author does not admit that her noting that Japanese leaders were ready to fight on even after Nagasaki contrasdicts the frequent claim that a mere demonstration of the bomb would have incited Japan to surrender.

    Her claims--like Japan's denial of its rape of Nanking and enslavement of comfort women--fly in the face of history.

  55. DSM - "Her claims--like Japan's denial of its rape of Nanking and enslavement of comfort women--fly in the face of history."

    However her claims do bolster the "agenda" that the US was, is and always will be wrong when using its military might. Perhaps it also assuages the guilt that some have over winning and stopping, through military might, a horrendous war where millions of innocents were murdered.

  56. There are two items which I disagree.
    "But it is now well known that the surrender was prompted at least as much by the Soviet Union’s decision to join the Allies in the war against Japan." The Soviet invasion was already arranged by the allies and Japan knew this. If they intended to ignore the coming Soviet invasion it seems likely the atomic bombings made the right impression.
    "To counter growing criticism of the bombings, American leaders established a narrative that the bombings had ended the war and saved up to 1 million American lives by preventing an invasion of Japan. (These postwar casualty estimates were far higher than pre-bomb calculations.)" The Japanese were rushing more divisions to Kyushu than first expected and this was probably not fully known until after war. Total casualties on both sides would have been greater than Okinawa which by itself was as deadly as the atomic bombings so ending the war after Nagasaki saved many Japanese lives even if it was not 1 million Americans.

  57. Testimonies of survivors of the Nagasaki bomb were first published, I believe, in Takashi Nagai's book "We of Nagasaki". I remember reading it in the 1950s. The narratives by the survivors themselves had an immediacy missing from Hersey's otherwise excellent "Hiroshima".

  58. Nagasaki has never been forgotten, merely downplayed. For a true case of 'amnesia' we must look to the 20 million Chinese victims of Japanese aggression. Compared to the hundreds of thousand Japanese A-bomb victims, it is obvious that peace, for the Empire was a one-way street. 70 years after Hiroshima there has been neither acknowledgment nor apology to the Chinese.

    And while our media have donned political mourning cloth for Hiroshima and Nagasaki, not a word about the Chinese victims.

  59. Nagasaki, with its wonderful harbor, surrounded by green mountains, is one of Japan's most beautiful and charming cities. No wonder it was the inspiration for Puccini's Madama Butterfly. As you climb the hill leading to Butterfly's "home", you can well-imagine her gazing out at the sea, waiting for her "husband" to return.

    Nagasaki also has the remarkable Atomic Bomb Museum, which contains numerous photos, videos and objects relating to the "Fat Man" bomb, including a model of the bomb itself. Nearby is the Peace Park with the famous Peace Statue--all well-worth visiting.

    Little known is the story of three Japanese businessmen from Nagasaki who were visiting Hiroshima when the first atomic bomb exploded. Tsutomu Yamaguchi was severely burned, but managed to return, with the others, to his home office. He was describing the first bomb to his supervisor, when the second bomb went off! He was uninjured by this blast and died at the age of 93.

  60. We shouldn't forget that Nagasaki was not the primary target, what is today Kitakyushu was. At the entrance of the site is a nativity scene with Jesus, Mary and Joseph in blackface from the intense heat. Seeing it can be an emotional, unforgetable experience.

  61. The attack on Pearl Harbor was an attack on a military target, and the casualties were almost exclusively military. The atom bomb targets were civilian non-combatants.

  62. Thank you Susan Southard. Each year I am very aware of the larger meaning and significance of the date August 6, 1945, but yes, like many people on earth, I struggle to learn the hidden reasons for perpetuating competing narratives that poison many other historical truths. As I write this comment, only one other comment has been posted so far, potentially signifying that only a few other people will learn something new that is significant to the needs of our unfolding new world. The old saying "too smart too late" obviously applies to more than Nagasaki, but with hope and patience, human knowledge will soon spread like wildfire, before it is too late for our species and the earth.

  63. Between the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, and just before the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, more than two million Japanese military, plus civilians were killed.

    And Japan did not sue for peace.

    Perhaps a million, or more Japanese died in the "conventional" US bomber raids on Japan that began in 1944. Including 100,000 in just one raid on the Japanese capital, Tokyo.

    And Japan did not sue for peace.

    Upwards of 250,000 Japanese military and civilians died in the US invasions of Iwo Jima, and Okinawa in 1945. With upwards of 81,000 total US casualties during the battles for both Japanese Home Islands.

    And Japan did not surrender.

    The US dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. Upwards of 80,000 died either instantly, or shortly thereafter.

    And Japan did not surrender.

    Otherwise, Nagasaki would not have likely suffered an atomic attack, or be a "forgotten city".

  64. The undeniable fact is that the Japanese surrendered after Nagasaki. The author fails to discuss that even after the second bomb, Japan's council was still deadlocked on surrender. Minister Suzuki approached the Emperor to break the deadlock. If you look in hindsight at almost all of the horrible acts in WWII, you can come up with an alternate solution.

    Also note that Nagasaki was not the primary target on August 9th. It was Kokura, which was saved by bad weather.

    You can peel grapes all you want over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but the Japanese surrendered six days later and ended the worst event that man has ever imposed on man. There is no way not to credit the two bombs with that surrender. There were other factors, of course, but those brought the worst conflict in history to an end.

    Vince Massimini
    Kentmorr Airpark, MD

  65. The US remains the only nation to use nuclear weapons in war. The US maintains thousands of militarily unnecessary nuclear weapons and delivery systems to destroy the world many times over. From a military perspective, if destroying the world is the goal, once should do it. The many times over becomes just military and corporate welfare.

  66. However history settles, if ever, the question as to the relevance of using nuclear weapons on the Japanese to end the war, one thing is certain: The decision to unleash its horrific ferocity for the first time certainly makes it more likely that it will be used again and increases the chances that it will be used against those of us who first let the genie out of the bottle.

  67. Why isn't attention being directed at Vladimir Putin and his waving of his nuclear arsenal and the implicit threat to those who opposed his monstrous invasions at the fringe of the former soviet union?

    If the Japanese had wanted to surrender they would have after Hiroshima they would have.

    This discussion cannot be divorced from the invasion of Okinawa. The Japanese fought more savagely the closer the US got to the Japanese homeland. They armed Japanese citizens with spears and grenades and suicide bombs.

    You cannot discuss this without discussing Pearl Harbor, Nanking, Korea, the Philippines, Singapore, the Bataan Death March, the decapitation of downed American pilots and so forth and so on.

    The Japanese only have self pity for their monstrous crimes.

    Imagine being on the first landing craft to touch the shore of Japan in 1945. Then render an ill informed historical speculation about "what if".

  68. In Merle Miller's wonderful biography "Plain Speaking" of Harry S. Truman, he quotes Truman as stating that he slept soundly after ordering the atomic bombings and never lost a night's sleep afterwards over his order. Critics of the bombing - sometimes calling these criminal - always lose sight of the context in which the bombings occurred.

    They ignore the slog of Iwo Jima, the far worse Okinawa battle and the tens of thousands of Marine and Navy casualties which resulted from these invasions. The Japanese soldiers on these islands fought to the last man - losing well over 100,000. After these sickening episodes, there was ample reason for Truman to believe that an invasion of Japan itself would result in hundreds of thousands of US deaths and injuries. After Okinawa and its Kamikaze assaults, he and the nation had had enough.

    It's easy to speculate on the actual reason for Japan's capitulation to unconditional surrender and whether or not Japan was ready to surrender prior to Nagasaki; but facts on the ground and the horror of continuing war argued otherwise and for Truman easily outweighed second guessing.

  69. I found this column revisionist for reasons other than most people have argued since the author could have mentioned that the decision to use both bombs had more to do with US-Soviet relations than with crippling an already crippled Japan. Many political historians call these bombs the first salvos of the Cold War.

  70. Nagasaki was deliberated by the Supreme Council… the combination of the two atomic bombings and the Soviet invasion work together to force Japan the surrender… and even then it was a very near thing.

    Please refer to the excellent work of the historians Max Hastings, Richard B. Frank and particularly Sadao Asada's the excellent analysis of the decision making in Japan’s Supreme Council after Hiroshima.

    According to Asada the entry of the Soviet Union was likely an important factor, but it didn’t have the same shock value of the atomic bomb which was completely “out of the blue”. The Soviet attack was long expected, Japanese intelligence and reports from their embassy in Moscow clearly showed that an invasion of Manchuria was only a matter of time, and that Stalin showed little interest in being a peace broker.

    Hiroshima of course was the biggest shock, but Nagasaki coming only three days later was also an important shock because it destroyed the military chiefs’ arguments that the bomb wasn’t a big deal since the US likely didn’t have very many of them, and the plan to fight a massive invasion of the homeland could continue with hope that massive bloodshed would force the US to settle for a negotiated peace in Japan’s favor.

    The “doves” in the cabinet successfully made the argument that after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the US no longer needed to invade, instead Japan would be utterly destroyed by naval and air power alone.

  71. The missing word is "terrorism". The atomic bombings were directed to slaughtering civilians and promised to continue to do so until the Japanese were terrorized into surrender. The same is true of the incendiary bombing of major civilian centers such as Tokyo. All that can be said to justify such slaughter is that it is how WW2 was fought, each side out to starve and slaughter the other's population without remorse until surrender.

  72. It is only a matter of time until the next Hiroshima or Nagasaki.

    And it is only a matter of time until the next Three Mile Island, Chernobyl or Fukushima.

    Unless all nuclear weapons and nuclear power are removed from the face of the earth.

  73. War is hell, that's why no country in their right mind should start it. Its hard to second guess what took place 70 years ago as we can not recreate the mood of the time by just reading history documents from both sides. My take on the mood then was most Americans hated Japan and wanted to kill everyone there and would do anything to end the war.

  74. I would like to support the comments of some readers challenging Ms. Southard's interpretation of Japan's decision to surrender. Contrary to her claims, the comparative impact of the Soviet declaration of war and the use of the atomic bomb on that decision still causes controversy. The sequence of events is too concentrated to pinpoint with any confidence the precise reason for the Japanese surrender. Since military hardliners continued to object even after Stalin declared war and the U.S. bombed Nagasaki, the emperor forced a decision. He probably reacted to both disasters, but no one knows for sure. Evaluation of the American action must include the context of a brutal war in which the Japanese military had displayed a preference for suicide over surrender. Placing all the onus on Truman and his advisers distorts a complex reality.

  75. What's done is done. What happens in the heat of war is not always what is best or even what is necessary. What should matter today is the information we gained as a human race about the types of devastation nuclear weapons cause. We should show those horrific pictures and tell those survivors' stories over and over so that we do not take the presence of nuclear weapons lightly. Having let the Jeanie out of the bottle, we cannot go back. The world has that knowledge and that power. We need to be sure that it scares the beejeebers out of enough clear-headed people that it is never used again to such devastation.

  76. If I want to be educated on history, I'd rather listen to a historian, not someone who teaches creative writing. No creativity is needed here and re-parsing history doesn't change the fact. The historical fact is A-bombs ended the war as quickly and abruptly as possible so millions of innocent lives could be saved. As a Chinese descendant, I thank God the war ended soon after the bombs were dropped so millions lives, not just the lives of American soldiers but also the lives of innocent Chinese, Koreans, Filipinos, could be saved.

  77. I have visited Nagasaki and I lived in Japan for about 20 years in total (currently, I live temporarily outside).

    According to the narrative I read there, Nagasaki was not the initial intended target, but clouds obscured the initial target, so the bomb was dropped in Nagasaki on a "potential military" target. Perhaps most ironic is that Nagasaki was one of the few places (at that time) in Japan where there was a (comparatively) large population of Christians that had _some minute_ influence on Japanese politics. I think most of these people have gone unnoticed in the post-war policies of most narratives.

    I wish things could have been different, and it is vexing to consider what the population there endured. War destroys whatever humanity we have, and this was a very bitter war indeed. Most soldiers who I have talked to who fought in the Pacific do not want to visit Japan.

    I think the best we can do is try to find ways to avoid creating similar circumstances where war is the only solution. Unfortunately, each generation has to learn this bitter truth all over again. How do we learn it? It seems that more often than not, it is by the school of hard knocks.

  78. Waaah Waah! In lieu of 2 million American lives. They picked and continued the fight. Sounds like a fight for equal pity for getting what was coming to you.

  79. Perusing these comments and noting the 'Remember Pearl Harbor' signs that appear throughout the US in early December, I'm struck by the similarity between the hatred some US citizens still express today toward the Japan, and the unending cycle of retributive violence in the Middle East. Is hatred so deeply engrained in our blood?

  80. The usual left-wing revisionism--with the U.S. as the bad guy. Typical of this publication.

    Just a few points--to put it all in perspective:

    --Japan attacked us. It was a sneak attack.
    --Before the bomb, the Japanese fought to the death.
    --They were so fanatic, they crashed planes into our ships.
    --Estimates of a mainland invasion were over a million U.S. casualties
    --U.S. prisoners of war were subjected to unspeakable cruelty
    --Hirohito's surrender speech specifically mentioned the bomb. In fact, here is what he said: ". "The enemy has begun to employ a new and most cruel bomb, the power of which to do damage is, indeed, incalculable..."
    --Most would enjoy living in Nagasaki today--despite the fact it was almost completely destroyed by a nuclear bomb. The same could not be said of Detroit--which was destroyed by Liberalism.

    The Left can cry for Nagasaki and label our country as somehow evil. Sorry, but I can't. They killed far too many of our brave servicemen and women. Despite that, we helped rebuild their economy, and then handed back their freedom. It was more grace than they deserved. Liberals always forget--if the shoe had been on the other foot, they would have destroyed us without a second thought. Doubt that? Do a little reading about "The Rape of Nanking"--and how they treated the Chinese.

  81. To get it out of the way, Detroit was not destroyed by liberalism; it was destroyed by a combination of racism and the decline of the auto industry. San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, New York, and Boston are all very liberal, and they are booming.

    As for the subject at hand, I grew up with the standard view of our decision to use nuclear weapons against Japan. Several years ago, I traveled to Japan and visited the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and it changed my mind. It is true that Japan attacked us and committed numerous atrocities against prisoners of war, as well as against the Chinese in Nanking. And, I do not think the Japanese have ever really owned up to or apologized for their actions, although it is difficult for any Japanese politician to do so because Japan, like certain other countries I could name, has an extreme right-wing faction that will not tolerate their doing so. I even felt that to an extent, the Peace Museum failed to acknowledge that Japan was not exactly an innocent victim.

    However, all that said, learning about what the effect of the bombing was on the people of Hiroshima, and particularly on large numbers of innocent children was an emotionally overwhelming experience and led me to the conclusion that it was wrong to use the atom bomb without exhausting all other options first and I do not believe we exhausted all other options first.

  82. It pains me to say this but while I can't completely agree with some of your over the top rhetoric you points are valid and well taken. The bombs were not dropped while the Japanese were serving high tea to the world....they had were engaged in an all out war not just against the US but also their neighbors. Their conduct of that war was anything but respectful of civilians. The bombs were not dropped in a vacuum and Truman did not celebrate their use.

  83. Given the existence of the bomb, given the casualties that American forces had already suffered in Okinawa and elsewhere, and given the anticipated casualties of an invasion of the main islands of Japan (whether or not the estimates, in hindsight, were accurate), it is difficult to believe that President Truman could have made any decision other than what he did.

    That the effects of the bomb were terrible and terrifying (as were the effects of the conventional bombing of Tokyo or Dresden, or the atrocities committed by the Germans in Europe or the Japanese in China) testifies to the moral horror of all-out war generally; the parties to the war had long since put aside any moral compunctions about mass killings of civilians. The postwar balance of terror -- mutually assured destruction -- simply made that moral void a regular instrument of national policy.

  84. What is a fact is Japan surrendered just 5 days after Nagasaki. They didn't surrender when the war had been lost for months, if not years. Millions of lives were saved, mostly Japanese civilians, but hundred of thousands American and Japanese soldiers also. I wish I could all the naysayers in a time machine and have them on the first boat to hit the Japanese mainland in an invasion, then ask them, "do you think we should use the two bombs sitting in the desert in New Mexico, or should we continue the boat ride to the shore?".

  85. "...Hirohito broke the deadlock and sanctioned surrender " this happened after Nagasaki. You have no evidence to suggest that the second bombing did not play a role in his decision. Though not deliberated, it was on his mind, and "the devastating new weapon " was referred to in his unprecedented speech to his people. Further, he was able to reference the face saving consequence of preventing worldwide devastation in his speech. Without the second bomb, it is likely that Hirohito would have remained silent...and the war would have continued

  86. The point that Nagasaki deserves full inclusion in our understanding of the war, and of the horrific consequences of nuclear bombs, is well taken.

    However, Ms Southard's point that the Japanese were about the surrender and therefore Nagasaki was not necessary, is just irrelevant. I may be mistaken, but I do not believe that Mr. Truman or his representatives were present in the room when the Japanese high command was discussing possible terms of surrender. they needed to apply the strategy they had with the information at hand. The bomb on Nagasaki was a tragic part of a tragic war. The civilian victims in Nagasaki were among the tens of millions of civilian casualties in the war. One can enter into a meaningless debate about whether bomb victims are somehow more - or less - relevant than victims of death marches, concentration camps, beheadings, comfort women, gas chambers, or any of the other horrors of that war, most of which were much more personal and individual and intentionally vicious. But that is indeed a meaningless discussion

  87. There are as many plausible reasons why Truman authorized the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as there are arguments that can be made against the bombings. This type of ambiguity occurs frequently in history, especially when the events in question are still partially locked up in the State Secrets Locker. Here’s the real story:
    Russia had declared war on Japan in 1904 (the Russo-Japanese War) because the Tsar wanted control of Manchuria and Korea in opposition to Japan’s imperialist claims. Russia was severely humiliated by its defeat in 1905, but never gave up its ambitions. In 1945 the Russian Army was at last poised to take control over those regions even though Manchuria was Chinese territory and Korea historically its vassal state (China then being an ally of the US). Truman knew that the war-weary American people would not permit American soldiers to die protecting Chinese claims or thwarting Soviet expansionism in Asia. The first atomic bomb was dropped as a warning to Stalin. Dropping the bomb on a populated area was necessary to demonstrate to Stalin that the US had the will to use its new weapon, not just the capability of building it. The second bomb was dropped to imply that the US had a stockpile of atomic weapons, not just one. However morally unsound the decision was, it does have substantial justification in the immoral world of international geo-politics.

  88. While the bombing of these cities is a horrific event, one should always remember the horrors inflicted by both sides. References to Hiroshima and Nagasaki should be coupled with Nanking. This was a war initiated by the Japanese.

  89. As a US Air Force brat, I grew up on Itazuke Air Base on northern Kyushu, not far from Nagasaki. I was 16 when our high school class trip in 1966 took us to the Peace Museum there. That visit, burned into my mind to this day, confirmed for me that there is absolutely no reason for humanity to subject itself to such flash devastation, no matter what "the other side" has done...there is simply no justification for the use of nuclear weapons, and the only result will be obliteration.

  90. The author claims "we now know" the Japanese were ready to surrender following the Soviet Union's invasion ... but we actually know no such thing. What we DO know is that the war cabinet was deadlocked, with the militarists vowing to fight "to extinction" in spite of Hiroshima (3 days earlier), the Russian declaration of war, the thousands of traditional firebombing sorties of the Air Force which continued even after Hiroshima, and the lack of any meaningful Japanese victories for several years. They *still* believed they could achieve a negotiated settlement, in spite of the rebuff of any hint of such movement on the part of the Allies, and even though entreaties had been made through the Soviets, Swiss, and others.

    Several of the militarists thought that the US had only one bomb (there were only three, one of which was detonated in the test at New Mexico). It finally came down to a tie breaking vote by the Emperor, who decided to go with surrender rather than continue the obvious and inevitable downward spiral. It is *impossible* to say "we know it was unnecessary*, since it actually happened the way it happened.

  91. Hiroshima and Nagasaki are the darkest side of American exceptionalism.

  92. First and foremost, Susan, thank you so much for writing this article. I wish you wouldn't take unfounded criticisms in the comments to the heart; please know that there are many in the world who appreciate your article (if I appreciate it this much, many must). It's a superb article, well-researched and very factual.

    I grew up admiring American presidents. They seemed to represent moral force I wished to imitate and I majored in Political Science partly because of them. The reality turned out to be quite different. JFK authorized Agent Orange. 150,000 people are still living with severe physical and mental deformity, robbed of almost all pleasures and chances of life that we take for granted. Truman, as I've just found out, gave order to drop the bomb as soon as it's ready, without adding any contingencies. As someone familiar with directing people to create desired results, I can tell how little care Truman had for those Japanese lives. That is not the order to be given if the end objective was to end the war, because you have to coordinate it with all the other ongoing processes -- Soviet Invasion of Japanese troops, etc. And according to this article, Truman knew about it all.

    The more time I spent working closely as colleagues with powerful and smart people I used to admire, the more I realize how limited they are just like everyone else. Their morality often lapses, and when it does, it leads them to do things half-way or do wrong things. Truman seems to have too.

  93. Why not tell the survivors' stories of the Battan Death March and the Japanese prison camps? Tens of thousands of Americans either murdered or mutilated by the Japanese soldiers..........we should not just hide the story under the rug. My one uncle was murdered and my other uncle spent 43 months in the prison camp as a slave. Let's tell that story!

  94. Why don't they do that? Here is the reason...Americans are always bad until someone somewhere wants our help or our money. I recently heard someone say Americans have no fact Americans have no right to a culture according to some. I am pretty sick of this attitude.

    Are we perfect..hell no! But neither is any other country. We need to stop looking at our navels and start dealing with our chaotic present. We need to come back home and fix our own country and let others fix their own.

    History is useful and important but we need to look at it all..the GOOD, the bad and the ugly...unfortunately everything the US has ever done is now apparently bad. It's getting pretty tiresome.

  95. My husband and I visited Nagasaki on our trip to Japan in 2014. We chose Nagasaki rather than Hiroshima because we wanted to see Dejima Wharf, the reconstruction of the Dutch colony that was Japan's only contact with the outside world i between 1650 and 1850. We visited the Atomic Bomb Memorial, we were the only westerners in the museum at that time. The museum is devoted to the promotion of world peace and particularly limiting nuclear proliferation. Sadly the displays show how our world has become less safe as nuclear weapons have spread to many countries since 1945. The exhibit shows in horrifying, matter of fact, unpolitical way the destruction of Nagasaki and the suffering of the unlucky survivors. There is also an honest accounting of Japan's military actions and atrocities leading up to and including
    WWII. One leaves the exhibit somber and reflective that this must never happen again. It is beside the point to continue to argue whether we should have dropped the bomb or not. War is and always was hell. The lesson of Nagaski is that nuclear war will destroy humankind if these weapons are used again. The world needs to see these pictures and hear the survivors' stories. There should be an exposition like what we saw in the museum traveling continually to every country in the world.

  96. I agree in hindsight the Nagasaki bomb on August 9, 1945, may not have been necessary. However, there was much confusion among the leaders of Japan after Hiroshima on August 6 and the Soviet entry int the war on August 8. Communication in Japan were broken, a weather front was impending which would make targeting the second bomb difficult. In this environment, events spiraled out of control.

    Previously, on July 28, the Japanese had dismissed the Allies Potsdam Declaration of July 26, which demanded unconditional surrender. This triggered the atomic bomb missions. President Truman did not order or sign orders for these missions. In June 1945, he was advised to use the atomic bomb without warning and as soon as it became available by his Interim advisory committee for atomic energy. He did not officially order the bombings but neither did he not stop them.

    I think people on both sides of the argument often tend to simply the complex situation and cherry pick the facts to support their positions.

    Frank Settle
    Director of the Alsos Digital Library for Nuclear Issues (
    Washington and Lee University
    Lexington, VA 24450

  97. If we were really proud of dropping the bomb on Nagasaki we would not feel so uncomfortable reading about the victims, the flesh following off of small children and the intense suffering the bomb caused on human beings. But it seems to bother us. Why? As many have pointed out the Japanese were brutal on a level that really does actually compare with ISIL and its treatments of prisoners today, even worse perhaps. Many of the older commentators reflect the intense hatred for the Japanese that our soldiers brought home from the war, much of it well deserved. As far as ending the war it seems to be something unknowable, if you're for the bomb you say it worked, if you're against it you say no. Only Hirohito could have said for sure.

    But the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki caused unfathomable human suffering. Truman slept well that night but there is so much evidence that he was startled by what the bomb did and fortunately did not use it in Korea. Comparisons to other war crimes, the Holocaust, the Blitz, the Bataan Death March or Pearl Harbor are not appropriate. An attempt to hierarchize suffering and atrocities will lead nowhere. Compassion dictates that you take it all in and hold it all.

    We have no parades here because deep down we know it is not something to be proud of. Efforts to avoid war and especially nuclear war are imperative.

  98. @Duffy: "Comparisons to other war crimes, ..."

    Are you calling the atomic bombings "war crimes"? If so, how do you distinguish them from the prior fire-bombings of Japan and Germany?

  99. With all due respect, war is never something that people feel comfortable about, at least not the details of war. We don't have parades about bombing any cities...we have parades about the end of war. We celebrate peace.

    Japan started the war.

  100. Even this week finds additional evidence arose that the Japanese were trying to develop their own atomic bombs during the war. But for the surrender of a German U-boat enroute to Japan with enriched uranium, the Japanese might have succeeded in developing their own weapons, or at the very least, dirty bombs. Would they have been hesitant to employ such weapons on the allies? What if delaying the two bombings allowed time for the Japanese to strike first?

  101. How many of these commenters today might never have been born if their fathers were killed in an Invasion of Japan?

  102. If you are trying to make a point, I can't see it. Please try again.

  103. Sorry for the inartful wording. What I meant to say was some of these commenters might be alive today only because the bombs prevented their fathers from being killed in an invasion of Japan,

  104. "...Nagasaki became the home of the largest Catholic church in East Asia. An estimated 10,000 Catholics died in the 1945 bombing."

    This is why I left the USAF in 1996 after 2 years of service. I worked at the United States Strategic Command (STRATCOM) on Offutt AFB in Omaha NE and was trained to operate a computer system that ensured nuclear warheads would hit their targets. It was only when I started to think critically about my faith tradition (I wasn't raised as a Catholic) that I fully realized the United States military was willing to sacrifice non-combatants (innocent men, women, and children) for soldiers. I couldn't continue to serve a military system that had ordered (and might again order) Christians to kill innocent people and other Christians. That's nothing short of idolatry. I know the arguments against conscientious objection (and I fully understand the concerns of those who make them), but the alternative wherein a soldier is ordered to ignore religious commitments to other members of his or her faith is one that strikes me as seriously flawed.

    It was only after I became a Catholic that I learned of the story of Fr. George Zabelka, the chaplain for the 509th Composite Group who blessed the crews of the Enola Gay and Bockscar and their atomic payloads dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Fr. Zabelka came to later deeply regret his failure of witness and went to Hiroshima and Nagasaki to seek forgiveness.

    We need more chaplains like him.

  105. So if I understand correctly, you were fine with killing hundreds of thousands of Buddhists and Shintoist, etc. for your country, but killing Christians was different? Honestly, if that is your view, this is one citizen who is glad you left the military. We cannot have soldiers who put sectarian partisanship above country and Constitution.

  106. How about also reporting on the battles for Iwo Jima and Okinawa and how many Americans lost their lives. Or about the thousands of brainwashed Japanese citizens who threw themselves off of cliffs to avoid "capture" by the "barbarians".
    Of course the NY Times will not provide the background and content prior to the decision to bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki since it does not support the narrative that the bombs should never have been dropped in the first place.

  107. Asked and answered, john.

  108. It doesn't help to rationalize and justify an event that cannot be changed. The question is what have we learned from that event for the future. It looks like the Japanese have learned the virtues of peace and pacifism to the extent that their entire country rises up in revolt when there is talk of Japanese involvement in war (and to a lesser extent the Western Europeans too). We on the other hand have managed to glorify war and our role in it, and are ever ready to "shock and awe" other countries.

  109. "An estimated 10,000 Catholics died in the 1945 bombing."

    Why single these victims out? All that matters is that they were civilians. Their death would have been no less tragic had they been shintoist, or atheist. Or gay.

  110. I believe the author's intent was to show the "live and let live" attitude of the people of Nagasaki. The way the sentence is presented, I do not believe she is ranking one religion over another.

  111. The tragedy of the bombs extends far beyond Nagasaki and Hiroshima. In the wake of the rush to produce the bombs there remains the earth bound legacy of the Manhattan Project - dozens of contaminated facilities, hundreds of workers and civilians sickened (the down winders) and a cleanup job costing taxpayers $5+ billion per year and nowhere near completion.

  112. When you consider the American public's attitude towards the Japanese at the end of World War II, you should consider the knowledge recently gained not only of the Battle of Okinawa, but also of the brutality of the Japanese, both military and civilian, in the Philippines, and other liberated areas of the South Pacific.

    Two 21st Century books about the Japanese torture of American servicemen and others is the well known Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand, and the less well known work about Japanese abuse of prisoners of war, Tears in the Darkness, by Elizabeth and Michael Norman. If the American public had known of the cruelty of the Japanese, both military and civilian they would have demanded that additional atomic bombs be dropped on Tokyo and other major urban areas. The Japanese are very lucky that they were treated as leniently as they were.

  113. Ms. Susan Southard, thank you so much for raising this issue in the Times.
    By the way I have been wondering for these 70 years why the then presidnt Truman ordered to drop the atomic bombs. I understand that the US government justified the bombings, stating that it saved the lives of one million US military personnels. However, my understanding is as follows:
    1. The US government clearly knew that Japan did'nt have any more power to continue the war at that time and that Japan had been trying to get in touch with the soviet union to let them mediate to end the war.
    2. President Truman fully understand that on Aug 8, 1945, on the date as agreed upon in the Yalta Agreement (exactly three months after the surrender of Germany) , the soviet union would declare the war against Japan, as they actuall did.
    3. In view of the foregoing President Truman, in a hurry,
    dicided to order to drop the atomic bomb on Hiroshima before the soviet union's declaration of the war against Japan that would definitely deprive Japan of any hope to continue the peace negotiation and let them surrender instantaneously.
    4. Six field marshals out of seven said no use of the atomic bomb was necessary from the military point of view. I undestand that even MacArthur was against the use of the atomic bombs.
    5. According to "An Untold History of the U.S." by Oliver Stone, the main purpose of the atomic bombing was to menace the soviet union and the bombing marked the begining of the cold war.

  114. 1--The Japanese government was trying to gain peace terms that would allow the military clique to stay in power.
    2--The fact that the Soviet Union was coming into the war guaranteed nothing. It was an open question as to if it had the amphibious capability to invade the Home Islands
    3--In view of the foregoing, dropping the bomb was seen as a way to shock them into surrender without a US invasion
    4--There have been some military leaders who questioned the decision after the fact but there are several gaps in the argument relying on them which are made elsewhere in this thread
    5--Oliver Stone is a perennial conspiracy theoriest

  115. @kyoji nagayoshi: "... I have been wondering for these 70 years why the then presidnt Truman ordered to drop the atomic bombs."
    "According to "An Untold History of the U.S." by Oliver Stone, ..."

    Neither Oliver Stone nor Susan Southard[1] are historians. There are numerous books on the atomic bombings, for example:[3]

    * "The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb" by Gar Alperovitz.[2]
    * "The Most Controversial Decision: Truman, the Atomic Bombs, and the Defeat of Japan" By Wilson D. Miscamble.

    [1] "Susan Southard holds an MFA in creative writing" according to her web site.

    [2] NY Times review:
    Did We Need to Drop It?
    By Michael R. Beschloss;
    Published: July 30, 1995

    [3] A search for "truman atomic bomb" will find more.

  116. I question the estimate of 1 million deaths among American forces if the invasion of Japan had taken place. The West Point Atlas of American Wars place the figure at an estimated one million casualties; that was a figure published in 1959. There's a big difference between deaths and casualties since casualties includes deaths, wounded, missing, and sick.

  117. I have just finished reading Ms. Southard's book on Nagasaki. It is clearly not an impartial undertaking. As Frank Settle writes below, "... people on both sides of the argument often tend to simply the complex situation and cherry pick the facts to support their positions."

    I do not think Ms. Southard's book is written with enough historical integrity to support her position that the Nagasaki bomb was unnecessary. It is easy to take the moral high ground out of context and in retrospect. And it does a great disservice to President Truman, who was acting in accordance with the circumstances at hand.

  118. Notwithstanding all the worshipful recent Truman biographies there is simply no doubt that the decision by FDR to accede to Democratic bosses in New Jersey, Kansas City, Chicago, New York and a few like places and thus bump Vice President Henry Wallace from his ticket for Harry Truman was a dreadfully wrong decision.

    But FDR, tired, focused on winning the war and winning a broad new international regime to prevent war did not fight them. And so we got Truman, a man of limited background and understanding -- who was not even told until he became president that there was an atomic project -- and he initiated a nuclear arms race and in the instant case gave an order FDR would have been far more careful with to use not one atomic bomb but bombs as fast as they came on line.

    In fact one can only surmise but that FDR would have found a way to demonstrate the atomic bomb to the Japanese without dropping one on Hiroshima much less a second one on Nagasaki and if only then not obtaining their unconditional surrender would have used it on them.

    In the context, with 3 million Americans poised in the Pacific to invade the Japanese home islands and with the examples of fanatical Japanese defenses of Iwo Jima and Okinowa as warnings of what was to come in the event of that invasion, and absent a forceful demonstration of the bomb, Hiroshima has a rationale. Nagasaki did not and does not.

  119. Those who defend the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki--and who criticize Ms. Southard for her "revisionist history"--really ought to know what many top U.S. military commanders thought of the bombings. Below is a sample, one of many similar qoutes that can be found in an article by Gar Alperovitz in The Nation (see

    "Adm. William Leahy, President Truman’s Chief of Staff, wrote in his 1950 memoir 'I Was There' 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.… in being the first to use it, we…adopted an ethical standard common to the barbarians of the Dark Ages. I was not taught to make war in that fashion, and wars cannot be won by destroying women and children.'”

    The atrocities committed by the Japanese military during the war in no way justify the atrocity of atomic bombing. And a clear-eyed reexamination of our history, one that seeks to learn the truth and debunk the myths that have grown up around profoundly bad decisions taken by our leaders in times of national crisis, in no way dishonors those American soldiers who fought and died defending our country and our way of life.

  120. Contrary to your over-hasty assumption, many of us our familiar with the uncritical reliance on the quotes from Leahy, etc. that Alperovitz trots out regularly. Of course, the argument completely overlooks that whatever their appraisal of the military situation (and it's not surprising that naval and air chiefs such as Leahy and Arnold would think that their services could one the war themselves), none were privy to the deliberations of the Japanese government where the military had a hammerlock and was holding out for more than just keeping the Emperor.

    There is nothing clear-eyed about such a flimsy analysis.

  121. Glad it was used as it meant my Dad and his brother both came home from the war in the Pacific.

  122. It is indeed difficult to justify the use of atomic bombs on predominantly civilian cities in Japan. But no one at that time had a clear idea of the consequences. At the same time, to the Western powers at that time and to date the atrocities the Japanese "imperial" military has caused in China, Korea and the Southern Pacific didn't, and still doesn't, seem to matter much and remain abstract. As far as my grandfather was concerned, having fought in the southern Pacific, Japan got what it deserved. I have a huge problem with his view. But at the same time, Japan still refuses to admit its atrocities and the best they can do is to express "regret" in a stark contrast to the repentance Germany has demonstrated and more importantly enculturated ever since. Quite often, I feel that by victimizing themselves the Japanese evade and cover up the atrocities the Emperor's military has inflicted on millions of Asians from Manchuria to the Southern Pacific. Especially the silence of the current Japanese monarch is thunderous on this point. I am sure the surrender to the US was far better an option than to the USSR, given the leniency the US has exercised. Stalin would have impaled Hirohito on a pole left to rot in Siberia...

  123. 43,000 people, mostly the elderly, women and children were killed in the Blitz aimed mostly at London, U.K. and its suburbs. One week after the D-Day invasion the V1 and V2 rocket attacks on Southern England commenced. Partly in retaliation the Allies bombed Hamburg to the ground. Winston Churchill and Air Marshal Harris hoped to bomb Germany into surrender. As you all know, this did not happen because Hitler and his High Command were indifferent to the suffering of the German people. I understand that the total deaths from air raids on Britain was about 250,000 civilians.
    Most historians agree that had the Allies invaded Japan the total number of casualties on both sides would have numbered in the millions. The real problem again was the indifference of the Japanese leaders to the suffering of their people. The fire bombing of Tokyo prior to the atomic bombing result in 100,000 deaths.

  124. Perhaps Shinzo Abe might consider an apology to the Chinese and the Koreans?

  125. If I may quote: "Japan still refuses to admit its atrocities and the best they can do is to express "regret" in a stark contrast to the repentance Germany has demonstrated and more importantly enculturated ever since. Quite often, I feel that by victimizing themselves the Japanese evade and cover up the atrocities the Emperor's military has inflicted on millions of Asians from Manchuria to the Southern Pacific. Especially the silence of the current Japanese monarch is thunderous on this point."
    This very important point is often left out of these discussions regarding the bombings go Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Apologists for Japan often portray the bombings as a war crime committed by the United States because we chose to use them rather than pursue other options. But the Japanese themselves bear a responsibility here too. I might say all of it. After all they started the war, their conduct in it among the worst examples of conduct in modern times and yet we still have people here who are willing to conveniently ignore that the Japanese have yet, as the Germans have, to take responsibility for their actions, which ultimately led to the atomic bomb and its use. And its that lack of willingness to take responsibility that plagues Japans relations with its neighbors to this day. The true responsibility for the tragedy of the bombs its Japans, and Japans alone and no I am not blaming the victim.

  126. I would rather have read an article, written with the help of knowledgable historians, who could provide analyses of the prior 200,000 Japanese and Americans deaths at Okinawa, and the availability of 10,000 Japanese planes, 28 million persons in the Japanese Citizens Fighting Corps, the 4 million men in the Japanese military, the poor state of the Soviet Navy, and the resistance of the Japanese military and citizenry to the idea of surrender.

    It seems a lot was left out of this OP-ED.

  127. "28 million persons in the Japanese Citizens Fighting Corps." You mean the "guys with the sharpened bamboo sticks?"

  128. The comments I have read here are much more reasoned and polite than I would have expected, given the emotional nature of the subject. Congratulations to the writers.
    That said, I have two points I’d like to add:
    1. It seems clear to me that the number of civilians and soldiers who would have died in an American invasion of Japan vastly exceeds the number who were killed in the atomic bomb explosions and in their aftermath. We’re probably talking tens of millions of people vs. hundreds of thousands. Whether this could have been avoided without dropping atomic bombs is unresolvable.
    2. It has always struck me that the nuclear arms race that followed the war was triggered not by the choice to bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki but the decision to develop the bomb in the first place. Once it became clear that a bomb was possible, it was only a matter of time before other nations built one, they all improved it, and somebody used it.

  129. This is revisionist history, pure and simple. Through the magic eye of 20/20 hindsight, this is the conclusion.

    The reality of the situation speaks otherwise.

  130. Please read Unbroken, The Rape of Nanking, and other books that depict the atrocities committed by the Japanese military and in their POW camps before deciding whether to drop the atomic bombs were justified. The "Kill All" command for late August regarding POWs that was in place would have led to the deaths of tens of thousands of American servicemen, and over a 100,00 Allied POWs, should the war have continued for another two weeks.

  131. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, good enough for Moses 5000 years ago, good enough for any modern nation state now.

  132. Correct me if I'm wrong but didn't Japan start the war?

  133. How does that justify the use of the atomic bombs?

  134. Yes, so we have the ABSOLUTE RIGHT to incinerate 200,000 civilians.

  135. @Steve:How does that justify the use of the atomic bombs?

    They were in our arsenal and we obliged Japan's invitation.

  136. It is one thing to say that war is terrible (like Sherman did) or even that it is dangerous to living things.

    It is one thing to be sorrowful about dropping atomic bombs and the long-term effects on a civilian population.

    But, there is no credible evidence that Japan was about to surrender or even would have surrendered without the Nagasaki bomb. Even the author admits that the Japanese war council was deadlocked and the Emperor had to break the tie AFTER the Nagasaki bomb.

    All too often life presents us with terrible choices. If we hadn't used the second bomb and instead hundreds of thousands of Americans died in a land invasion, would we be applauding that decision today or criticizing it???

  137. I have to agree. One bomb would have been enough, but I still think that one was the right thing to do, at the time. I'm very grateful that my dad was able to turn his ship around and head for home.

  138. The Japanese high command needed a swift repetition of Hiroshima to confirm that, in the face of horrific US weapons, surrender was inevitable. Second guessing Pres. Truman's decision is disingenuous at the very least. Ms. Southard's book does nothing to change that.

  139. Ms Southard's opinion reflects her professional vocation as a creative writer and certainly underscores her lack of historical knowledge regarding the final days of the Japanese empire.

    There was never any possibility that the USSR was going to help Japan secure more favorable surrender terms. No evidence of this whatsoever. The Russians were just as adamant as the Americans that unconditional surrender was the only option available to both Germany and Japan.

    The thousands of civilian deaths caused by the atomic bombs was tragic -- nearly as tragic as the rape of Nanking which has been described as the worst atrocity of WWII.

    The estimate of American casualties that would have resulted from an invasion has been validated numerous times. The author is flat out wrong in her assertion on this score.

    The Japanese leaders chose not to surrender after Hiroshima. They were over-ruled by the emperor after Nagasaki.

    Hopefully the world has learned that the use of nuclear weapons results in catastrophic casualties and destruction. Nagasaki and Hiroshima are clear evidence of this. Yes, the Japanese people suffered enormously because of the a-bombs. But they also suffered enormously because they were made to pay for the savagery of their military leaders who massacred whole populations in their effort to establish the Japanese empire.

    However, indulging in revisionist history is not very productive.

  140. I wonder how well President Harry S. Truman slept on the night before the first bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. And after having some concept of what the effects of the first bomb were, did he sleep any better, or worse, the night before the second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. What might have gone through his mind?

    Many heads-of-state, both before and after Truman, and in many countries around-the-world, have committed men, and now women, into battle. They knew that many would not come back alive, or in one piece. But, in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, death and human suffering came with lightning speed, horror and brought horrendous agony. And, the destruction was totally inflicted on others, and mostly civilians.

    Hopefully, it is a recognition of mankind's understanding that such weapons have never been used since those days in August of 1945. Will the knowledge of the futility and potentially annihilation of the world, as we know it, be considered a future deterrent--for all time?

  141. I have tremendous sympathy for the people of Nagasaki. However, the critical issue is whether the U.S. knew with certainty that Japan intended to surrender before the bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. I don't believe that evidence exists. The Japanese were determined and ferocious. Until they came to table and officially surrendered, no one could be certain whether it was going to happen. Further, enough American blood (and others as well) had been spilled for the Japanese ambition. And the people of Nagasaki, whether they were willing participants or not, were supporting the Japanese war efforts. Better them than Americans and other Asians.

  142. I have an open mind to arguments over the wisdom of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But I found this essay confused and unpersuasive. The author flatly asserts that the Japanese surrender owed as much to the Soviet attack as to the Nagasaki, but then tells us that in the wake of that event the war council was deadlocked. That day, Nagasaki was bombed and that night the Emperor unilaterally made the decision to surrender.

    Occam’s razor would suggest that it was Nagasaki that resolved the Emperor’s mind and “broke the deadlock.” If the author has good reasons to parse or weight factors differently, she doesn’t provide them. Perhaps the Emperor would have made the same decision the night if Nagasaki hadn’t yet been bombed, but how can she know?

    The author darkly describes this prima facia reading as “the official narrative,” implying without risking actual assertion that it was some sort of cover-up. (It apparently never occurs to her that people in government might sincerely believe this rather obvious interpretation of events.) She further implies that Nagasaki was not a legitimate strategic target (of 74,000 killed or fatally insured “only 150 were military personnel”) but then tells us that the city had the third largest shipyards in the world, which would logically make it a priority target since Japan was primarily a naval power.

    Is it any wonder that “the official narrative remains the dominant opinion of most Americans”?

  143. Many commenters seem to be attempting to justify our actions in Hiroshima and Nagasaki from almost a vengeance standpoint, I don't know if Truman ever spoke in depth on this concept.

    My take is strikingly different. I honestly believe that Aug 6th and 9th of 1945 might well be the greatest days of human civilization. The world owes the Japanese and the US an enormous debt of gratitude for those 2 events.

    I don't seriously believe it's hyperbole to suggest that without the death, destruction and misery the world witnessed in Aug of '45 that I would be here today making a submission to the NYT's comment section.

    Those were the 2 smallest atomic/nuclear weapons ever detonated, is there really any doubt that in later decades enormously larger and lethal devices wouldn't have been used in all the myriad conflicts that have ensued. I have clear memories of diving under my wooden desk in grade school awaiting the USSR's barrage that we were led to believe was imminent.

    With the collapse of the USSR we found out they had their nut jobs like our Curtis LeMay who openly advocated using our weapons in Korea, Vietnam or even to vanquish our MAD counterpart, we also discovered they had, thankfully many more sane people of cooler deportment to deal diplomatically with our sane people of equally cool deportment.

    Should we commemorate and mourn the victims of both Japanese cities, absolutely, but let's also celebrate their contribution to continued human existence.

  144. My father died at 55. His brother lives to 89 and his sister is 95. The difference? He was stationed at Los Alamos and exposed to radiation from the testing of atomic weapons. He died a painful death at too early an age. He felt strongly about the horrors of the weapons we developed.

    Are atomic weapons the most awful result of mankind's search for more effective ways to wage war? Yes, Would I have sacrificed even one tenth the number of American young men predicted to die in an invasion of Japan rather than use the bombs? No. The horrors of war are the result not of the weapons,we have developed but rather the leaders who promote the wars. We need to find ways to stop future leaders, like Japan's in the 1930s, from promoting the wars that result in devastation. That is the lesson of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

  145. Of all the thoughtful comments below, the one about Truman having to use all the weapons he had available seems the most persuasive. If he held back, and that had caused even one more Allied casualty, then he would have been remiss as Commander in Chief, to say the least. To those who say we should have destroyed any remaining bombs and its technology after the war, well, thanks to Klaus Fuchs, we couldn't.

  146. Article is insanely wrong.

    1 US casualties at Saipan were 10,500. Japan's were 30,000 [the whole garrison] but propaganda so stiffened Saipanese resolve that whole villages leapt from cliffs rather than be taken. And so it went.
    2 At Okinawa US casualties were 49,000. Japanese casualties were 110,000.
    3 Japanese were pumped against US invasion. US planners estimated 1,000,000 US dead from invading Japan. Japanese would lose more.
    4 US told Japan to surrender or face great destruction. Japan ignored the message.
    5 US thought Manchuria had far more Japanese divisions than it really had.
    6 US bombed Hiroshima.
    7 After that better informed USSR finally 'relented' to enter the Pac War. USSR wanted a sure bet.
    8 No word from Japan. US bombed Nagasaki, Japan's military R&D center.

    Years after WWII, reconstructionists blacken US motives. Japan's prior eagerness to die for the Emperor suggests Japan would have lost more than the est. 1,000,000 US deaths. A-bombs killed only 130,000 Japanese tops.

    Some allege that much earlier US ignored Japanese peace feelers. Peace feelers? Their diplomats remained politely inscrutable even as Pearl Harbor was attacked. After such treachery, democratically elected US leaders dared not give Japan another chance, assuming they even knew of peace feelers.

    Ms Southard's hindsight is highly partial.

  147. Wasn't one of the purposes of the second bomb to prove to the Japanese that we had and could manufacture multiple atomic bombs?

  148. Some quotes from Americas's military leaders after the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki: Admiral William Leahy -"The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender. General "Hap" Arnold - "The Japanese were helpless they had lost control of their air". Admiral Chester Nimitz -"The atomic bomb played no role in the the defeat of Japan". Admiral "Bull Halsey Jr. - "The first atomic bomb was an unnecessary experiment". General Dwight Eisenhower - "Japan was already defeated and dropping the bomb was unnecessary". General Curtis Le May - "The dropping of the atomic bomb had nothing to do with the end of the war"
    Some of President Truman's advisors including Secretary of State James Byrnes believed the use of the bomb would help the U.S. dominate Russia and the post war era.

  149. War & Death is the normal consequence of the sins of mankind. The reason the world is suffering now is the same. Because Our Lady of Fatima was ignored and mankind did not turn back to God, as she warned us to do or the world would suffer world war 2 which the Blessed Mother predicted back in 1917, caused untold misery and death for millions. Once again the world ever escalating in its sinfulness, is yet again trying the mercy of God who alone restrains the just justice for our sinful world.

    Our Lady of Good Success, Pray for us !

  150. FYI, Our Lady of Good Success appeared in Quito, Ecuador 400 years ago, and foretold in graphic detail the vile world we all know too well. The Blessed Mother asked for prayers back then that our souls be saved from the sinful excesses celebrated in the world we were born into.

  151. This author advises us not to forget those who experienced the horrors of the aftermath of an atomic bomb attack. But I advise this author not to forget Japan's virulent racism, mass murder of civilians in China, their barbaric beheading or starvation of prisoners of war and their greed for land and resources belonging to others. Let us not forget that Japan brought the horrors of war to all of southeast Asia and that a bomb exploding over Nagasaki helped to stop them.

  152. And biologically warfare.

  153. Anyone who has traveled in the far East and visited war museums would understand dropping this bomb was necessary to end the war. Museums in Singapore and even China credit the bomb as to the ending the war.
    Please don't forget that leaflets were dropped on these cities before the bombing trying to warn the civilians.
    I was born a few years later but I believe this was necessary or the war would have continued for many more years resulting in the deaths of thousands of Americans lives.
    I don't know why I bother to write comments because conservative comments are always pulled by the NYT's.

  154. A few important left out of the discussion:
    - FDR never talked to Truman so the latter only heard about the bomb after becoming president. He had a short time to make a decision with little context.
    - Apart from the casualty estimates for the invasion of the home islands. Truman also had to deal with military revold from troops in Europe who objected to being sent to Asia
    - More people were victims of mass bombimng campaigns in Tokyo and other cities (in Europe as well). They are no more discussed than Nagasaki. Whether one device or 50 thousand are used to destroy a city, the human toll is terrible. Why is the WW2-era bomb so different?
    - Casual post hoc analysis can easily support a facile "bomb did/did not matter" argument. The fact is a big machine (the war economy) was switched on, and kept running. This is why the allies were still wiping German cities off the map at the end of April 1945. The fact is all sides were throwing everything they had into it right up until the end. It's the collective result of that, that determined victory/failure.

  155. The Japanese government may or may not have based its decision to surrender on the Soviet Union entering the war against Japan, but the USSR finally did so because it did not want to be left out when Japan surrendered. Hiroshima convinced Stalin the time had come.
    There is no getting around the fact that the atomic bombs (plural) brought the war in the Pacific to an end.

  156. In the fulsomeness of history there is no justification for dropping nuclear weapons on defenseless civilians or, I would argue, anyone else.

    So any discussion of what would have happened with a different decision is to a large extent beside the point.

    The reaction of Americans at the time to the bombings has been described as simply more white racism. "Yellow Peril," "Slant-Eyed Fiends" and internment are all singled out to prove the general proposition. To deny there was racism that led to many shameful actions is silly.

    But actual Japanese foreign policy and military practice, however, went well beyond racist caricatures. 10,000,000 or more Chinese died as a result of the Japanese invasions and another 5,000,000 in what is now Indonesia.

    In total, the war the Japanese launched killed over 20,000,000 people, almost all civilians. The truth of Japanese behavior was far more horrible than the racists of the time imagined.

    Some of this horror was documented during the war with every American well acquainted with the Rape of Nanking and the Bataan Death March. The Pacific War saw some of the history's most desperate fighting. The Battle of Okinawa, 4/1/45-6/23/45, resulted in 14,000 Allied deaths, 76,000 Japanese military dead and 60,000-150,000 civilian dead.

    Thousands of troops sat in the Philippines waiting to invade the central Japanese islands, my father among them. Their reaction, and that of their families was relief, not racism. They knew they were coming home.

  157. The ignorance and hatred that is a large part of Rush Limbaugh's "American exceptionalism" is evident in a number of the comments. Our country needs to come to a reckoning with its own war crimes. Our moral pedestal is creaky and shaky.

  158. We know now (and have known for decades) that details of atomic bombing Hiroshima and Nagasaki are completely irrelevant.

    Once the nuclear fission was discovered in Germany in 1939, the history of the world has changed and for the better. The fission bomb was built first in the US, a few years later in the Soviet Union.

    No nuclear weapons have ever been used anywhere else although several other countries became part of the small 'nuclear club'.

    I was wondering why the 70th anniversary of the Hiroshima bomb was not mentioned in the Times but today the Nagasaki anniversary is here.

    Mutual Assured Destruction prevented the cold war from becoming a hot war and that is the real 'heritage' of the discovery of the fission.

    Unfortunately, major scientific discoveries have been always accompanied by killing of many people.

    Will the doctrine of mutual assured destruction hold? Hopefully, at least no thermonuclear (hydrogen) bomb will ever be used. Tactical fission bombs (up to a few kilotons of TNT yield) are, unfortunately, not unthinkable.

    Does Mr. Putin refer to them or to something more destructive?

  159. I am so sick and tired of hearing excuses for using the Atomib Bomb! There was no excuse for using such a terrible weapon. The idea that American lives were saved, is pure rubbish. The Japanese were on the verge of surrender. This was an act of vengeance, and nothing else. Also the military wanted to test it's new toy, on a population. Well they had their perfect target! Japan was not just an enemy, it was populated by the "Yellow" race! It would be some years hence, when the yellow Japanese were considered equal to white Americans, and were allowed to intermarry. The US makes up all kinds of excuses for its' brutality, around the world! The fact is that America is a country ruled by warlords!

  160. In Japan, the forgotten city is Nanking.

  161. Frank Wilimczyk, a friend of mine, was a science fiction fan who was in training for the invasion of Japan. He knew he'd soon be dead, and wrote his mother to give his magazine collection to the paper drives. One day, a fellow soldier asked him, "What's an atomic bomb?" Frank survived the war, and went on to a long life as an SF fan and book designer.

    Without the bomb, Frank and hundreds of thousands of Allied soldiers, including those who were in the process of shipping to the Pacific Theatre, as the war in the Pacific was called, would have died—as would uncounted millions of Japanese, who would surely have killed themselves, as many did when Okinawa was captured, rather than fall into the hands of what Japanese propaganda claimed were the raping and murdering Allied invaders.

  162. Even more forgotten in this country are the estimated 20 million plus Chinese who died as the result of the Japanese invasion of China on July 7, 1937. Why are they forgotten? Because there were too many of them? Because they were Chinese? Or because they died the old-fashioned way, by bombs, bullets, bayonets, swords, starvation and disease?

    I don't recall ever reading in the news about any Japanese commemoration of this day; just the days when they were the victims.

  163. If there is are guilty parties as the author alleges then blame the USSR and Stalin along with the Japanese military. The Soviets were supposed to declare war on Japan after VE day, but Stalin stalled. Only after Hiroshima when it looked like the US would win without Russian help that Stalin took action (we know the Soviets knew about the bomb from spies). So. the Russians waited until the first bomb was dropped, feared loosing their take over of China - the Russians kept fighting after in Manchuria after the Japanese surrender to gain their military objectives in NE China and Korea. Hence, had the USSR declared war on Japan as they were supposed to after May 1945 using this author's logic all death and destruction in Japan would have ended months sooner...saving Japanese civilian and all military casualties. The US requested Japanese unconditional surrender before and Hiroshima. Its very revisionist history to blame anybody other than the Japanese military dictatorship for continuing the was along with Stalin's stalling for continuing the war. Stalin set the stage for the Chinese communist revolution and the Korean war through waiting as long as possible to fight Japan...but then again the Russians were they only country to have a pact with Hitler and still occupy land they seized in Europe.

  164. It is easy to second guess the atomic bomb attacks on Japan now. While the number of American casualties for the invasion are debatable, those American soldiers should not have had to die after fighting their way across the Pacific just because the Japanese were too stubborn to surrender. Using atomic weapons was the right decision at the time with the information that was available. America did not want that war but Pearl Harbor ended any chance of staying out of it.

  165. I am scornful of the greatest hypocrisy ever displayed by the Japanese Prime Minister and the Japanese people. While they make a great production of grieving of the atom bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, they not only forget that the Japanese army all over Asia were inflicting the most brutal massacres on the peoples of Korea, China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Philippines, Burma, Malaysia and they even bombed Darwin, they are presently rewriting and brushing out the war crimes and live human germ experiments in their history books. I despise such cowardly activities.

  166. As an historian I understand, when writing history, how difficult it is not to view the event from a safe and protected place. For those who did not live during the war it is difficult for us to imagine how terrible it was here, but much more so in Europe and Asia. After all the death and destruction at the hands of Herr Hitler and his friends Tojo and Mussolini Americans wanted--needed the war to be over. Today as we reflect we usually don't see the annihilation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by nuclear bomb as necessary but in 1945 that was all the vast majority of the war torn world wanted---a quick and final end to the war. Since Japan started the war by attacking Pearl Harbor (and because they were were not white) --something not done by Italy and Germany-- it isn't difficult to see why the bomb was dropped on them. While I do feel very sympathetic for the survivors we shouldn't remove the event from the context that caused us to drop the bomb on Japan. Keep in mind that the post war years still saw Japan as our conquered enemy not worthy of our sympathy. Today in our largely politically correct society we can't bear to acknowledge that America would drop two nuclear bombs and then suppress the consequences.
    Perhaps in the next 70 years we will accept the reality that we did what we believed to be right in extraordinary circumstances. The bomb ended the war but it also changed us and made a very different global future--for good or ill.