Paul Kawika Martin states in his commentary “Work for nuclear disarmament” (Aug. 6) it is a “revisionist morass of arguments” that contend “atomic bombs ended World War II sooner and saved lives.” Japan in August 1945 still held most of the territory it had captured in Asia and Indochina. Emperor Hirohito felt they could secure favorable terms for ending the war that would include the continued possession of some of their territorial gains: August 6 and 9 that year changed this mindset.
After years of being taught they were to fight to the last breath, Japan’s citizens on August 15 heard their Emperor tell them they must “pave the way for a grand peace for all generations to come by enduring the unendurable and suffering what is unsufferable” since “the enemy has begun to employ a new and most cruel bomb, the power of which to do damage is, indeed, incalculable.” Emphasizing he grasped the realities of the new atomic age, he added that continuing to fight “would lead to the total extinction of human civilization.”
Diplomacy would not have led the Emperor and his people to “endure the unendurable” to end the carnage. Only the atomic bomb or the invasion of Japan would have ended the war with acceptable terms. The atomic bombs did it with a minimum of American casualties. An invasion would have cost a minimum of half a million Japanese lives.
The “bombs invented by Americans” have continued to save lives by putting limits on warfare. If the bombs had not been dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, they almost certainly would have been used in another 20th century conflict. Emperor Hirohito said in September 1945 that “the peace party did not prevail until the bombing of Hiroshima created a situation which could be dramatized.” The pictures of the mushroom clouds and the devastation of the Japanese cities have an indisputable impact that will be with all future generations.
One has to be careful when wishing that past events had gone differently. The American occupation and the transformation of Japanese society after World War II borders on miraculous. If peace had been obtained any other way, there is no guarantee of the same outcome.