Friday, February 03, 2006

The History Game

(My school's provider ate my first version of this post, so I'll try again...)

December 7th, 1991 was Pearl Harbor Day. Obviously, it was the 50th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor by Imperial Japan which ushered the U.S. into World War II. Naturally, there was a flurry of media activity, both covering the commemorative events and discussing the original event itself. At the time, I had already been living and teaching in Japan for more than a year, but it hardly prepared me for the level of shock and confusion that broke out among my students in the international course at Kamisu High. You see, up until that time, they'd been led to believe (by their rather right-wing history teacher and textbooks) that the "Pacific War" had started in 1992 with the Battle of Midway, with Japan on the defensive. They had also been taught that Imperial Japan's colonization of Korea and Formosa (Taiwan) had been beneficial to those countries, and that the invasions throughout Asia had been intended to free the continent from Western aggression. Now their whole view of their country was thrown into doubt, and they weren't sure what to believe.

I need to point out that not all of the high schools at which I was teaching were quite as rightist as Kamisu seemed to be with regard to history, but the fact was that nearly all of my students (and even many of the teachers) at all of my schools seemed surprised. The darker points of Japan's wartime history, including how the war started, were something that was not generally discussed. Now it was being paraded around for all to see. It didn't stop with Pearl Harbor, either. Over the next few years, such topics as the Korean "comfort women" (forced wartime prostitution) began to be discussed in the media much more seriously and much more openly. There was also a lot more soul-searching going on in debate forums.

The right-wing groups were also starting to scream bloody murder that their country's history was being hijacked.

Although there had been muted apologies for wartime atrocities in the past, a new sort of apology fever seemed to start from the early to mid 90s. In 1993, Prime Minister Hosokawa shocked the nation by offering an open apology for Japan's wartime aggression, the strongest yet given by any leader till then. Prime Ministers Murayama (1994-1995), Hashimoto (1996-1998), and Obuchi (1999) kept the momentum going. Even the Emperor himself apologized in 1996.

Asian nations victimized by Japan never felt these apologies were in any way sufficient, which irked a lot of Japanese. Moreover, right-wingers at home in the Land of the Rising Sun were becoming increasingly concerned that their children were being brought up to hate their country. Therefore, in 1997 the Society for History Textbook Reform was founded. (Actually, its Japanese name literally means "Group for making a new history textbook"...very uninspiring...) Their stated goal was to create a new history textbook that would help restore pride in their nation. They did that, all right. When the first book came out in the early 2000s, it shocked a lot of people.

To be blunt, it was a shameless whitewashing of history. Wartime atrocities were either glossed over or ignored if not denied. Once again, it was claimed that colonization had been beneficial and the invasions of Asia a "noble" venture to combat Western imperialism. The Nanjing Massacre was denied. The issue of Korean forced labor and "comfort women" was ignored. Even more troubling, the book made a strong claim of sovereignty over islets (read "rocks in the sea") which are currently claimed if not administered by China, Korea, and Taiwan.

At first the government asked the Society to tone down the rhetoric in its book. They did, but only a little bit. That was still enough to convince the government to approve it. It was then published...and orders for it began to pour in from school districts all over the country. (The stated reason was usually the same as that offered by the Society itself: they wanted children to grow up proud of their country.)

Needless to say, Japan's neighbors aren't impressed. In fact, the approval and sale of that textbook was one of the chief reasons for the explosion of anti-Japanese violence in China last year. That, and Prime Minister Koizumi's continued visits to Yasukuni Shrine, have probably set inter-Asian relations back more than a decade.

Clearly, whitewashing or revising history for the sake of feeling good about your nation (or group affiliation) is not only lame, but dangerous. Look at President Ahmadinejad of Iran calling the Holocaust a "myth" and saying he intends to form a commission of "experts" to prove it so he can justify attacks on Israel. The Nazis in Germany also used manipulations of history mixed with myth to back up their "Aryan master race" theories used to persecute people of various races as well as the handicapped, homosexual, and (depending on denomination) religious. Here we have clear cases of historical distortion being used as a weapon. That's a dangerous path, and one too easily followed. It's better to own up to your history, recall it, learn from it, and get on with life.

I can only hope that people will be so wise...


The Moody Minstrel said...

The weirdness continues! As I mentioned, my first attempt at this post (with more or less the same content) suddenly vanished during the publishing attempt and didn't return. That was after we had five earthquakes within a two-hour period. I wrote this version after coming home, but Blogger's server locked up when I tried to publish it and wouldn't respond for the better part of half an hour. I saved a copy of this post on Word just in case, but then the server suddenly came unstuck.


Was I being punished by the Shinto deities?

Seymour said...

No, you were being punished for believing in Shinto dieties.

Jesus Christ is putting the Hammer down on you. Wake up and forsake those Pagan Forces of EE-Vul!


Pa've said...

I agree with Seymour. You are clearly too involved with these pagan dieties.



Oh, what was I saying?

Right, there is a snake crawling up your leg.

Pandabonium said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Pandabonium said...

Ok - let me try this again with fewer (not no) mistakes....

re: the weirdness - I had the same experience with blogger yesterday. They have acknowedled the problem. Just throw some toasted soybeans and it will all be OK.

I will always hold dear the stares of fellow Americans as K (my Japanese wife) and I (a caucasian American) toured the Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor together . I hope our presence there gave those people some hope of a better future. K was very moved because she previously had a very incomplete understanding of what had taken place.

Your interesting experiences with commonly held Japanese beliefs about history point to the kind of narrow view of history that all kids in all nations receive, for such things are not limited to Japan. The American absurd view of the use of nukes on Japan comes to mind. One of many fairy tales woven by the US government to get people to line up for the cold war. (That will make me alot of friends whom I hope will do their homework before flaming me).

What amazes me in Japan today is all the connections to fascist Japan that the current administration has that seemingly go unnoticed.

Chief Cabinet Sec. Shinzo Abe's grand father for instance was a Class A war criminal who served time after WWII. Foreign Minister Aso, in addition to his routine foot in mouth Yasukuni Shrine statements, said in October of 2004 that Japan is "one nation, one civilization, one language, one culture, and one race, the like of which there is no other on this earth."

Oh really? Sounds a lot like "ein volk, ein reich" kind of stuff to me. Scary guy to appoint as foreign minister considering Japan's international relations problems with its neighbors.

I'm working on a post about these clowns, uh, gentlemen. I'm sure I'll need a flame retardant suit when I publish it on my blog, but so be it.

Good for you, Moody, for getting people to discuss such issues and in the process study their own history.

A quote I repeat often, even without knowing the origin, is "if you don't study history, the world is a mystery."

The Moody Minstrel said...

Just in case anyone is puzzled by Pandabonium's toasted soybean comment, it was a reference to the Japanese festival day on February 3rd (yesterday), Setsubun.

ladybug said...

Of course we've got alot of the same problems here - one of which is dubbed

"the Vietnam crabgrass theory" by a critic of US textbooks on that period of history. Her contention is that Vietnam is presented as a situation that just grew out of control, and suddenly we had a domestic as well as international Mess-O-Potamia.

Of course this is completly ignoring the thought out and chosen steps by the Kennedy and previous administrations to step up the (for a long time) undeclared war in all of SouthEast Asia.

I had several friends in college from the Phillipines, Singapore, and Thailand. Let me tell you, they and their parents certainly remember what the Japanese did, and they did it w/"extreme prejudice".

It'd be like the Germans saying the Holacaust never happened (or was greatly exaggerated), start playing "Deutchland uber alles" as the national anthem again and starting in on the Turks as the new target scapecoat minorty...

Maybe it'll make the Japanese feel good in the short term, but it can't be good for diplomacy or commerce in the long term.

Goemagog said...

a lot of the hostility other asian countries are venting towards japan is being blamed on the textbook dispute but is mostly their own nationalism welling up.

Operation Olympic would have been a nightmare if we had to actually do it instead of nuking two cities.

Most Germans today believed that their ancestors alive during the 1930's were bullied and intimated by the nazi's. they don't deny the holocaust, they deny having had a choice about anything that happened.

and the primary escalation in vietnam was the introduction of north vietnamese troops into south vietnam.

Goe, pondering lunch.

Anonymous said...

According to the history textbook I learned, the start of the Pacific War was December 8 (Jpn ST), 1941 when Japan declared the war right after the suprise(!?) attack on Pearl Harbor. I understand that the battle of Midway was the turning point to Japan. The Imperial Japanese Navy was losing the command of the sea after that... Most of the time, there have been not many questions about after World War II in the high school entrance exams and not enough time to finish the end of the history textbook (too thick) to the teachers. So I'm afraid students don't have a chance to learn about post war history, unless they take Japanese history at high school and it is the required subject to get into colleges. Only for the exams.

The Moody Minstrel said...


Never forget: the Germans willingly elected Hitler into power because he offered them something better than what they had at the time (not to mention offered to save their national pride and defend them from "terrorists").

Operation Olympic would have been a nightmare if we had to actually do it instead of nuking two cities.

That's a common argument, and we'll probably never really know one way or the other. However, one fact of the matter is that every major city in Japan except Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Kyoto, Kokura, and Niigata had already been bombed (mostly by firebombs, which killed a lot more civilians than the nukes) by the time Enola Gay set out. (Incidentally, that actually seems strange since, as the center of Japan's military machine, Hiroshima should have been the first target instead of one of the last. So why was it spared? Conspiracy theorists have a ball with this one.)

Tellingly, most Japanese I've met seem far less outraged by the nukes than they are by the large number of unarmed civilians killed in Okinawa (sometimes by their own troops). There's a famous movie, supposedly based on a true story, that shows American troops using loudspeakers to coax civilians out of the caves they were hiding in. If they came out, Japanese troops hiding with them machine-gunned them. If they stayed in, U.S. troops flame-throwered them...even if they displayed a white flag. That movie often gets shown on TV here, and people around me tend to give me "the look" for days afterward.

Civilians are killed in wars. They always have, and they always will. They were in Okinawa and Hiroshima. They have been in Fallujah and elsewhere in Iraq. It's a fact of life, and trying to deny it is a load of shyte. Necessary or not, war is still evil.

Anonymous, as I mentioned in the post, it was mainly my students at one particular high school (Kamisu HS, which has a low-level general curriculum and sends very few students to college) that were shocked to learn about Pearl Harbor. Students at Kashima HS, for example, which has a mid-level college-oriented curriculum, did know about it. I will also point out that, as mentioned in the post, the chief history teacher at Kamisu HS back then (early 90s) was unashamedly rightist.

When I first started work at Seishin, one of the longest-serving "Kokugo" (Japanese language and literature) teachers there was also admittedly a member of a right-wing militia. Until he was more or less driven to resign (two years after I started there), he quite blatantly used his classical literature classes for right-wing political propaganda and became quite intimidating (the guy was f***ing scary) if the social studies department taught anything but "accepted" history.

It really depends on where you go and who you talk to.

Pandabonium said...

"Operation Olympic would have been a nightmare if we had to actually do it instead of nuking two cities."

This was not the "either - or" choice the US faced. You are presenting a rathere worn out false alternative.

It may make you feel better about the incineration of two cities filled with civilians, as it was designed to do, but it does nothing toward uncovering historical facts.

If you would read some books on the subject and look into official documents of the discussions that took place regarding the decision and the coverup you will find that the reasons for using the bombs were to intimidate the Soviets, tests the two different bomb designs to see if they would work, and get data about the effects of such weapons. Targets were chosen which had specific geographical features and types buildings and so on.

Much of what Americans accept - and repeat almost as a mantra - was a cover story put out by the government while at the same time denying public access to any information about the effects of the weapons. This was designed with an eye toward gaining public support for the continued manufacture and testing of such weapons for the cold war. One of the people who helped to spin this tale was McGeorge Bundy, who later became Special Assistant for National Security Affairs to Presidents Kennedy and Johnson from 1961-1966, and whose brother Bill joined the CIA and was foreign affairs advisor to Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson. He had a key role in planning the Vietnam War.

Start connecting the dots as W like so much to say now days.

Truman had teams of experts examine the elements of the allied victories in Germany and Japan. It was called "The US Stategic Bombing Survey. In Germany's case, they determined that the air war actually costed the allies more than the damage caused. If you read Albert Speer's book (he was Hitler's Minister of Armaments) "Inside the Third Reich" you will learn that inspite of all the bombing, production increases dramatically every year during the war until very close to the end.

In Japan's case, a team of over 1000 experts - doctors, scientists, engineers, etc. led by Paul Nitze (you may want to take a look at his biography) went to Japan and examined every detail, visited Nagasaki and Hiroshima, and went through government records. They concluded that 1) B-29s with incindiery bombs had already been inflicting the same damage and casualties city by city - except for radiation - the atomic bombs did, so there was no need to use them. 2) Japan did not surrender as a result of the use of nuclear weapons. It was the combination of crushing military defeats in the Pacific, the naval blockade of Japan, and Russia's declaration of war.

Their report to Truman stated: "it is the Survey's opinion that certainly prior to 31 December 1945, and in all probability prior to 1 November 1945, Japan would have surrendered even if atomic bombs had not been dropped, even if Russia had not entered the war, and even if no invasion had been planned or contemplated."

Governments lie, they cover up their tracks, they propagandize. Name a country, they all do it. If you want to understand the world, one needs to have a critical mind and learn something about history outside the "official narrative of events".

That Japan does so and its people are largely ignorant of the facts as Moody has shared from his experience, does not mean that you should assume that you, as an American, only got the truth from your schooling. And I think that Moody would certainly agree with that. Japan has plenty in its past to adddress which it has not.

I am not going to get into a debate with Goe about the bombings. I've seen what happens and I don't have the time or the interest. I've made my point and somehow I don't think he is interested in understanding my point of view, only in arguing.

The Moody Minstrel said...

Ironically, Pandabonium, that's what Goe accused me of doing.

If Goe keeps the tone civil, makes a solid point, and actually engages in debate rather than mudslinging, I say fine. Let him (her?) have his turn in the spotlight. We can only learn from it. After all, there were similar issues of attitude raised when Vulgarius first started participating here (to the point where Snabbie was about ready to bar him), but I think we all value his contribution now.

(Of course, Snabbie and I both know Vulgarius personally, and that helps. Goemagog, on the other hand, is still a mystery.)

Pandabonium said...

Moody - I really shouldn't comment on anything in the area of politics or history. I get wrapped up in it and am too impatient with people who don't seem to have gone beyond the surface of what they are commenting on. That should be OK too and simply an opportunity to share some information with them. I'm just the Irascible Panda.

Not that I'm ever wrong. hahaha

Your technique is more civil. You tend to calmly present your point. I tend to hit people over the head with mine.

Goemagog said...

you claim that every major bombing campaign failed, but every american military officer who opposed dropping the bombs supported either an invasion or sustained bombing campaigns. the japanese military leadership was against surrender, and even after we nuked two cities, they had to put down a coup attempt by junior officers trying to stop the surrender. the only bombing campaign that would have had an impact on the japanese ability to wage war was the new campaign to destroy railroads to stop food reaching the cities, starving millions to death.

"Captured Japanese documents and postwar interrogation of Japanese military leaders disclose that information concerning the number of Japanese planes available for the defence of the home islands were dangerously in error."

"Allied intelligence had established that the Japanese had no more than 2,500 aircraft of which they guessed 300 would be deployed in suicide attacks.
In August 1945, however, unknown to Allied intelligence, the Japanese still had 5,651 army and 7,074 navy aircraft, for a total of 12,725 planes of all types."

"When the invasion became imminent, Ketsu-Go called for a four-fold aerial plan of attack to destroy up to 800 Allied ships. While Allied ships were approaching Japan, but still in the open seas, an initial force of 2,000 army and navy fighters were to fight to the death to control the skies over Kyushu. A second force of 330 navy combat pilots were to attack the main body of the task force to keep it from using its fire support and air cover to protect the troop carrying transports.

While these two forces were engaged, a third force of 825 suicide planes were to hit the American transports.

As the invasion convoys approached their anchorages, another 2,000 suicide planes were to be launched in waves of 200 to 300, to be used in hour-by-hour attacks."

this is different because it shows the japanese planning to do something new, i.e. not putting everything into sinkin the carriers. expecting the carriers to be the primary target of japanese attacks, we had already started leaving the transports a safe distance from the main battle, in this case, the carriers and their escorts would be away from the main battle.

"With the fleet hovering off the beaches, all remaining Japanese aircraft would be committed to nonstop suicide attacks, which the Japanese hoped could be sustained for 10 days."

nonstop attacks on the transports for 10 days. and the japanese wouldnt have to worry about kamikaze pilots getting tired.

provided we didn't lose a single soldier reaching the beaches, we would still have been outnumbered 3-2 against a fortified enemy, and that is not counting assistance from the japanese civilian population.

""it is the Survey's opinion that certainly prior to 31 December 1945, and all probability prior to 1 November 1945, Japan would have surrendered even if the atomic bomb had not been dropped, even if Russia had not entered the war, and even if no invasion had been planned or contemplated."
- the strategic bombing survey.

even with the soviet entry into the war, the known planning of the invasion, and the two nuclear weapons, the japanese war cabinet was still hoping that by dragging out the fight they could get better terms. when the emperor sided against the military and instructed surrender, they still had to put down a coup attempt before they actually could surrender.

Goe, wakka wakka wakka.

Pandabonium said...

Goemagog said,

"you claim that every major bombing campaign failed, but every american military officer who opposed dropping the bombs supported either an invasion or sustained bombing campaigns. the japanese military leadership was against surrender, and even after we nuked two cities, they had to put down a coup attempt by junior officers trying to stop the surrender. the only bombing campaign that would have had an impact on the japanese ability to wage war was the new campaign to destroy railroads to stop food reaching the cities, starving millions to death. "

I did not claim that every major bombing campaign was a failure. I reported the conclusion of the Strategic Bombing Survery which, after the war, looked at the overall resuslts. Generals - like Curtis LeMay, later characturized as General Jack D. Ripper inn the film "Dr. Strangelove" - thought bombing was the be-all and end-all of warfare. So did my father (a far more gentle and reasonable man than the general) who designed most of the B-24 bomber. But what they thought or promoted is irrelivant in this context. They were wrong according to Truman's experts in their post war assessment.

Second, I did not say that I thought it would be a good idea to continue bombing with incindiaries or that it was ever the right thing to do. I simply reported the conclusion of Paul Nitze (who was pro-nuke all his life) that the A-bomb did nothing that could have been done with the weapons at hand and therefore was not a factor because of its different design.

Military men do not call the shots. They make tactical descicions and advise. The people who call the shots are in the executive branch. If you doubt that, just look at the Cuban Missile Crisis. Look at the current administration, which has also dismissed the advice of the military.

Generals argue for their own strategy during war. There is politics in that, carreer building, and personallities that factor into that. But what they thought or argued about was the best course during the war, is not relevent to my commeents. Again, I reported on the conclusions of the Strategic Bombing Report which based its conclusions on what it discovered AFTER the war. A report which was signed by both Paul Nitze and John Kenneth Galbraith who had opposite political views.

Your blanket statement about universal support for invasion plans among those opposed to the bomb is inacccurate, and as I pointed out earlier, the thinking that mattered was that of Truman and his cabinet.

It is clear to me that you are only interested in arguing and not in joining in discourse which might help each us reach a better understanding reality (truth if you prefer). You would rather look up some quick references with a google search that support your position, as if that sheds light on anything.

The point of my original comment was that all governments lie and that we all need to "do our homework" before believing anything we are told. The USA spins its history too - from Columbus on up - and much what we "learned" in school, we often find has to be unlearned and replaced with the truth. That takes integrity. You obviously disagree when it comes to nuking cities.
But surely you do not believe everything the government taught you in school or claims to be true day to day?

Like I said before, I don't have time or interest to play your games. Had you not so grossly mistated what I wrote previously I would not have bothered to post this. Now that I have pointed out your tactics for others to evaluate, I will not engage you further. I trust the other people who visit this blog - who are from many political perspectives and many of whom no doubt disagree with my views on this topic - can well judge for themselves.

Anonymous said...

Goe, Wikipedia is a poor reference, but I will use it to support my arguments.

Wakka wakka wakka

The Moody Minstrel said...

The Japanese defense plans sound pretty scary. However, if you check out that Okinawa link I provided (an U.S. Army account of the battle), you'll see that:

a. Imperial Army troops involved in the fight there were actually plagued by desertion. Kamikaze pilots were volunteers, and the officers tended to be pretty hard-core, but not all of the regular soldiers were willing to sacrifice everything, especially since they were conscripts who didn't really want to be there in the first place.

b. Though they were trained to fight (with bamboo sticks), very few civilians actually did so. Most either cowered in shelters or tried to escape. A sizable number, when faced with imminent capture by the "barbarians", chose to jump off of cliffs instead of fighting.

We'll never know what really would have happened had Operation Olympic been carried out. We can only speculate.

Incidentally, on a completely different topic, Foreign Minister Aso is at it again. He just made a speech in which he claimed Taiwan owes its current high level of literacy to the Japanese colonial period and said it's proof colonization was good for the colonized. The Taiwanese have gotta love that. You'd think this guy would learn to stop putting his foot in his mouth.

Goemagog said...

The fighting on Okinawa was used in the planning for Olympic. Casualty estimates went up everytime more information became available.

There is no reason to believe the Japanese would have surrendered without the invasion and conquest of at least one of the home islands. The bombing campaign that had been planned to support Olympic would have destroyed the transportation network with conventional explosives and starved millions. The bombing of Hiroshima is what compelled the "peace party" to push for surrender in the war cabinet and actually led to capitulation.

Goe, got his degree in history.

j-apricot said...

To the moody minstrel

I feel so ashamed of Foreign Minister Aso's comments about Yasukuni Shrine,Taiwan etc. I didn't know he is such a rightist. I'm afraid he is supposed to be one of the likely candidates to the next prime minister. Shame.

I'm also against PM Koizmi's Yasukuni visits.

Pandabonium said...


That Aso is a piece of work. Perhaps it isn't foot in mouth. Perhaps he expresses his true thoughts and those of the administration. He can then retract his statements or revise them, giving the PM deniability. A sort of "shibai".

That's an interesting article on the horrors of the Okinawa invasion too.

It inserts a mention of that battle as a reason for going nuclear. I might argue that even the Battle of Okinawa was unnecessary, but that's just speculation on my part.

The estimates of casualties for invading the main isands however, were never 500,000 as many claim. That was a fabrication after the bombings. After the bombs, the US government classified all documents photos and films and blocked them from public access. A web of misinformation was constructed about the topic. The US was headed for cold war, and it needed to shape public opinion.

Documents de-classified about 15 years ago, show the estimates by the War department to be in the 30,000 range. As you say, we will never know what would have happened. We can however research documents and find out how the decission to use atomic weapons was actually reached. Or read the books and acticles of historians who do such research as new information becomes declassified or otherwise revealed. History is not a static subject as you know. Our view of it changes with new evidence or a different integration of the facts.

Most of the top US brass were against use of the bomb and did not regard it as militarily necessary [See quotes below]. Truman and Byrnes [then Secretary of State] delayed the end of the war and cost American and Asian lives by deliberately refusing to clarify the surrender terms, by deliberately stalling Sino-Soviet talks, by deliberately postponing the Potsdam conference, and by deliberately ignoring the many Japanese peace feelers.

One telling indication that this was not a meassured move to bring peace was the way Truman gave the order. His order was to drop the a-bombs "as they became available". He did not order one bomb, wait or a response, then order a second. It was rather more like "fire phasers full and let 'em roll". One order.

I don't expect to convince people who will cling to their beliefs on this issue no matter what comes to light. But I am in good (and perhaps, surprising) company with the opinions I have expressed. So I'll let them do the talking with some quotes:

Admiral William D. Leahy. 5-star admiral, president of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff and the combined American-British Chiefs of Staff, and chief of staff to the commander-in-chief of the army and navy from 1942–1945 (Roosevelt) and 1945–1949 (Truman):

"It is my opinion 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. . . . My own feeling was that in being the first to use it, we had adopted the 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."

Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz , commander in chief of the Pacific Fleet, quoted by his widow:

". . . I felt that it was an unnecessary loss of civilian life. . . . We had them beaten. They hadn't enough food, they couldn't do anything."

And – E. B. Potter , naval historian wrote: "Nimitz considered the atomic bomb somehow indecent, certainly not a legitimate form of warfare."

Admiral William "Bull" Halsey , commander of the Third Fleet:

"The first atomic bomb was an unnecessary experiment. . . . It was a mistake ever to drop it . . . (the scientists) had this toy and they wanted to try it out, so they dropped it. . . . It killed a lot of Japs, but the Japs had put out a lot of peace feelers through Russia long before."

Rear Admiral Richard Byrd :
"Especially it is good to see the truth told about the last days of the war with Japan. . . . I was with the Fleet during that period; and every officer in the Fleet knew that Japan would eventually capitulate from . . . the tight blockade."

Rear Admiral Lewis L. Strauss , special assistant to the Secretary of the Navy:

"I, too, felt strongly that it was a mistake to drop the atom bombs, especially without warning." [The atomic bomb] "was not necessary to bring the war to a successful
conclusion . . . it was clear to a number of people . . . that the war was very nearly over. The Japanese were nearly ready to capitulate . . . it was a sin – to use a good word – [a word that] should be used more often – to kill non-combatants. . . ."

Major General Curtis E. LeMay, US Army Air Forces (at a press conference, September 1945)

"The war would have been over in two weeks without the Russians entering and without the atomic bomb . . . the atomic bomb had nothing to do with the end of the war at all."

Major General Claire Chennault , founder of the Flying Tigers, and former US Army Air Forces commander in China:

"Russia's entry into the Japanese war was the decisive factor in speeding its end and would have been so even if no atomic bombs had been dropped..."

Henry H. "Hap" Arnold , Commanding General of the US Army Air Forces.

". .. [F]rom the Japanese standpoint the atomic bomb was really a way out. The Japanese position was hopeless even before the first atomic bomb fell. . . ."

Lieutenant General Ira C. Eaker, Arnold's deputy.

"Arnold's view was that it (dropping the atomic bomb) was unnecessary. He said that he knew that the Japanese wanted peace. There were political implications in the decision and Arnold did not feel it was the military's job to question it. . . . I knew nobody in the high echelons of the Army Air Force who had any question about having to invade Japan."

Arnold, quoted by Eaker:

"When the question comes up of whether we use the atomic bomb or not, my view is that the Air Force will not oppose the use of the bomb, and they will deliver it effectively if the Commander in Chief decides to use it. But it is not necessary to use it in order to conquer the Japanese without the necessity of a land invasion."

General George C. Kenney , commander of Army Air Force units in the Southwest Pacific, when asked whether using the atomic bomb had been a wise decision:

"No! I think we had the Japs licked anyhow. I think they would have quit probably within a week or so of
when they did quit."

W. Averill Harriman, in private notes after a dinner with General Carl "Tooey" Spaatz (commander in July 1945 of the Pacific-based US Army Strategic Air Forces), and Spaatz's one-time deputy commanding general in Europe, Frederick L. Anderson:

"...Both felt Japan would surrender without use of the bomb, and neither knew why a second bomb was used."

General Dwight D. Eisenhower:

"I voiced to him [Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson] my grave misgivings, first on the basis of my belief that Japan was already defeated and that dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary, and secondly because I thought that our country should avoid shocking world opinion by the use of a weapon whose employment was, I thought, no longer mandatory as a measure to save American lives. It was my belief that Japan was at that very moment seeking some way to surrender with a minimum of loss of 'face'. . . . It wasn't necessary to hit them with that awful thing."

former President Herbert Hoover :

"I told MacArthur of my memorandum of mid-May 1945 to Truman, that peace could be had with Japan by which our major objectives would be accomplished. MacArthur said that was correct and that we would have avoided all of the losses, the Atomic bomb, and the entry of Russia into Manchuria."

Richard M. Nixon :

"MacArthur once spoke to me very eloquently about it. . . . He thought it a tragedy that the Bomb was ever exploded. MacArthur believed that the same restrictions ought to apply to atomic weapons as to conventional weapons, that the military objective should always be to limit damage to noncombatants. . . . MacArthur, you see, was a soldier. He believed in using force only against military targets, and that is why the nuclear thing turned him off, which I think speaks well of him

Norman Cousins , from an interview with MacArthur :

". . . [H]e saw no military justification for the dropping of the bomb. The war might have ended weeks earlier, he said, if the United States had agreed, as it did later anyway, to the retention of the institution of the emperor."

The above persons are not exactly members of the peace movement or left wing revisionists.

But I guess they could all have been mistaken.....

Getting back to your post. It is amazing how Japan has managed to spin it's history - within its borders anyway. I think the cold war saved them from having to face their actions in the previous decades. The cold war also released a lot of war criminals and allowed to return to political carreers. I wonder how things might have been different if the nations of the world had honestlyu and seriously reflected on what just taken place.

The Moody Minstrel said...

I hear you. I think the overwhelming majority of my Japanese acquaintances, friends, and in-laws can't believe that guy is for real. Unfortunately, there's no way of knowing how much the (horribly-misnamed) LDP is controlled from within by right-wing groups just like we don't really know how much dominionist groups and corporations control the Republican party or radical leftist groups or foreign concerns control the Democrats.

With all due respect, I've met someone who got her degree in piano performance at a prestigious music college but, amazingly enough, is a worse pianist than I am (and I'm not even a pianist). In other words, don't let your diploma go to your head.

I'll consider your points on their own merit and weigh them against other sources, as is proper. I'll also ignore your theatrics.


It sounds to me like our military leaders back then were far more noble and principled (and realistic) than our political leaders. Why am I not surprised?

Goemagog said...

your information has to be wrong. there were 18,900 dead on okinawa, twice the number on iwo jima, and it would be reasonable to expect it to at least double again. plus the japanese had accurately predicted where we would be landing, which would bump it up more, plus the japanese were reinforcing their positions with troops from the northern (and believed safe from the first invasion) islands. we were reading all of their messages and every bit of applicable information made the numbers go up. there wasn't any good news for us.

if the japanese didn't surrender then, we would have gone through with operation coronet, which would have been larger and bloodier still.

nimitz's plan for ending the war involved starving 10 million japanese to death while their army continued to slaughter the chinese. and we would have to keep bombing their transportation network to do that. plus we don't know if it would have ever worked, since the japanese knew they couldn't win the war for over a year before we nuked them and didn't give up until we nuked them.

most of the other's supported nimitz's plan.


Anonymous said...




(waiting for Goe's self-analysis)

Pa've said...

War Stories with Col. Oliver North on Fox News.

That's how I learn about history. Plus the military channel, the discovery channel, the history channel etc. Its hard to deny cold blooded black and white footage and interviews with veterans of both the US and Japanese military, or the German military, the French, the Itallians, history much better witnessed by real people who lived it, a dying breed, soon, all we will have are memories.

The Moody Minstrel said...

Is that the same Ollie North that wound up being the willing scapegoat for the Iran-Contra scandal?

Why am I not surprised that he's teaching history on Fox News? That's a stereotype to end all stereotypes!

Pandabonium said...


My figure was wrong, it is one of many figures, a range of figures discussed in the White House. But the 500,000 American lives figure is a myth which stemmed from an article in Harpers magazine in 1946 I think it was, by Henry Stimson who was Truman's Secretary of War and who was defending his role in the decision to drop atomic weapons on civilians. He pulled the figure out his a....uh, hat. Geo, we've been lied to, bamboozled, led astray. I believe a lot of the same cold war lies we've been fed for decades about numerous topics. Hell we are still being lied to, perhaps as never before, by the present administration.

The correct figure was actually a range from 31,000 to 41,700 casualties – that is casualties, not deaths.
That may been revised upward somewhat in the six weeks between that meeting (see below) and the dropping of the a-bombs, but concerns over casualty figures were NOT the reason the bombs were dropped. That was a post war fabrication.

The meeting at which Truman gave his approval to the invasion plan (Olympic), was convened on June 18, 1945, with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Secretaries of War and Navy, the Assistant Secretary of War, and Admiral Leahy, the President's personal chief of staff. This was the same meeting at which Admiral Leahy unsuccessfully advocated modifying the unconditional surrender doctrine to permit the retention of the Emperor. [ Minutes of meeting held at the White House on 18 June 1945 at 1530. (Truman Library)] Some of the important points about the meeting:

First, the presentation by General Marshall related solely to OLYMPIC, the plan to invade Kyushu. Neither then nor at any other time did the Joint Chiefs discuss with Truman a plan for the invasion of Honshu.

Second, all projections of losses were in terms of casualties. No figures on expected deaths were presented or discussed. According to the minutes, casualties for the first thirty days on Kyushu, by the end of which U.S. forces would have a firm hold on the southern half of Kyushu (separated from the north by a mountain range), with full control of its various airfields, "should not exceed the price we have paid for Luzon" -- 31,000 casualties.[ "Minutes of meeting held at the White House on 18 June 1945." ] (Later reports showed that the Luzon casualty figures included 7,765 deaths, a ratio of 25 percent deaths, somewhat higher than the 20 percent ratio in 1944 and 1945 in the Pacific.) When questioned by Admiral Leahy about whether the 31,000 estimate might be too low in view of the reportedly heavier than expected casualties on Okinawa, Admiral King replied that he thought that a realistic casualty figure for Kyushu would lie somewhere between the Luzon losses of 31,000 and the estimated but not finally determined Okinawa casualties of 41,700. (The final count for Okinawa casualties turned out to be much higher, as you know, but this is the information they had at the time). This confirmed Admiral Leahy's information about the much heavier casualties than expected on Okinawa, but not a greater number of deaths. Upon the unanimous recommendation of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Truman gave his approval to the plan.

Third, the War Department plan, and General Marshall's comment on it, suggested strongly that by the time southern Kyushu was in Allied hands, Japan would surrender.
Fourth, according to the minutes, "The record of General MacArthur's operations from I March 1944 through 1 May 1945 shows 13,742 U.S. killed compared to 310,165 Japanese killed, or a ratio of 22 to 1."

Fifth, President Truman expressed the hope, at the meeting's end, that there would be a possibility of preventing an Okinawa from one end of Japan to the other, emphasizing his expression of concern, when the meeting was called, to minimize American casualties.

Finally, .the meeting did not reveal or discuss any alternative to the invasion plan. .

As for Nimitz, I have quoted him previously, perhaps you missed it: ". . . I felt that it (use of atomic weapons) was an unnecessary loss of civilian life. . . . We had them beaten. They hadn't enough food, they couldn't do anything."

Did you mean to imply that dropping the bomb was to save lives to saving the lives of starving Japanese? That U.S., having bombed and burned to rubble and ash dozens of cities in Japan, used atomic weapons on two more, full of civilians (and some American POWs), which caused massive death, horrific burns, cancers, birth defects, and set a precedent in the world for the use of such weapons, as a humanitarian act? Give me a break.

I could refute other arguments you have brought up, but I no longer have time for this.

Cling if you will to the mythology. It only shows how strong government lies and widely accepted untruths can be. It is difficult for many Japanese to open their eyes about their own country’s culpability in the early decades of the 20th century, and for the same reason. The point of my first comment was just that. If we care about making a better world, we need to stop looking at it through the distorting lens of our nationalities and political leanings, to broaden our reading, and open our minds to new and different information, rather than clinging to our assumptions, and seeking only such sources of information which reinforce them.

I have made my point.

Pandabonium said...

Apologies for my usual typos, one I of which if feel the need to correct, the others are inconsequential.

In the first paragraph I typed: ". I believe a lot of the same cold war lies...." That should be "believed" - past tense. There are probably some I still unknowingly believe, but not a lot.

...end transmission.

Pandabonium said...

I would like to applaud the comments by Ladybug. I feel like they got bowled over by other, more bellicose comments - including my own. No, I am definitely NOT trying to stir up another argument (and will refuse to engage in one.) - collective sigh - 'Just wanting to acknowledge her sensible statement which may have been overlooked.

The Moody Minstrel said...

Easy, anonymous! Goe was being reasonable and sticking to his sources this time. Fair is fair.

Both Goemagog and Pandabonium have put a lot of material on the table with regard to this topic, with plenty backing up either side. I guess it boils down to which sources (or which interpretation) you're willing to accept. Pandabonium says Goe's info is mostly government coverups and smokescreens and backs himself up with plenty of quotes from key figures. Goe says Pandabonium's info "has to be mistaken" and provides plenty of official statistics to defend his argument. Once a discussion reaches a point like this, you know its usefulness is nearing its end. Any more, and it'll just be tires spinning and mud flying. I think we need to let our personal juries decide and get on with it.

Goemagog said...

if we had them beaten, they would have surrendered. the japanese admitted that surrender would not have been an option without either an invasion or the nukes because the dominant governmental faction wanted them to die to the last man. the japanese were not suffering a famine when the war ended, but we could have (and were planning) to induce one. the germans and italians knew they were beaten, the japanese knew as well, but were being very stubborn about it.

Goe, thinks japan has a bomb program.

The Moody Minstrel said...

What a coincidence: this topic popped up in today's newspaper.

Japan had already hinted that they were willing to surrender. The sticking point was Japan's insistence on keeping the Emperor on the throne. The "dominant faction" (the militant nationalists) considered him a divine figure and regarded the whole war as a sort of holy crusade. They would never accept the Emperor being deposed and imprisoned (or hung). The U.S. didn't agree with them...until after the surrender actually took place.

Goe, thinks japan has a bomb program.

Well, you know, there was an incident here in Japan in the 90s where 75 kilograms of plutonium went unaccounted for at a nuclear research facility (and was later claimed to have been found "stuck in a pipe"). Then, in 2003, it was announced that more than 200kg of plutonium had "gone missing" over a period of 15 years at the Tokai research facility (only an hour from my house). Cut to late 2004-mid 2005, during which time 160kg of plutonium is said to have "leaked out of a ruptured pipe" at a processing facility. Japan also currently has perhaps the large stockpile of plutonium in the world (same link).

Anti-nuke, eh? Just like Israel doesn't have nukes? Uh-huh. Sure.

Pandabonium said...

Goe, I am done with this as I said.

I will not write in detail about the Japanese people I have known, and discussed these things with personally. People who were children in Japan at the end of war who were in fact starving. Men who were in fact Japanese fighter pilots at the end of the war who had almost no fuel, little training, and who told me of flying around in circles because they knew that if they even approached a single B-29 they would die, and didn't care to do that.

No, I won't. You would not listen because you don't want to know. You want only to argue endlessly and cling to your beliefs.

Now you bring up a new topic. One I may in fact agree with you (in part) about.

But Moody, having called a truce has engaged you on that topic. So you and Moody go ahead.

As for me, class has been dismissed, and if you are hanging around, it must be that you want to help clean the erasers and chalkboard.

Goemagog said...

The japanese asked for four terms after losing two cities, and did not ask before. they did try to get the russians to negotiate an end to the war, but they never considered or offered a conditional surrender. i used to have (but lost some time in the last year) a copy of a diary by one of the aides to a member of the "peace party". if i recall correctly, they agreed to ask for four terms during a meeting after hiroshima was bombed and the emperor sided against the military to support asking for the terms. they wanted no occupation of japan, no disarmament, no foreign war crimes trials, and no change in the emperors status. nagasaki was bombed before the meeting was finished and the terms sent. our reply was no to the first three, and an undecided on the status of the emperor. britain and russia both sent us open messages insisting that we say no to the fourth condition, so the japanese agreed to surrender to us before the russians and british position became ours.

i wish i could find it again, the guy gave me the impression that the non-"peace party" believed that they could get us to give up if they dragged the war into the middle of 46, and were dead set on doing just that. gave a lot of info on the politics of the japanese war cabinet and how they all tried to use the role of the emperor to push their own agendas.

south korea may or may not also have a bomb program, but their government is so schizophrenic it's hard to know if they're just trying to give the north koreans a hand.

Goe, losing too many things.