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Old 08-08-2003, 11:31 PM   #1
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58 years ago ...

58 years ago this week the US dropped two atomic bombs on the island of Japan killing approximately 130,000 men, women, and children in the two initial blasts, thosuands more in the days, weeks, and months after.



http://www.wagingpeace.org/articles/...a+nagasaki.htm

Remembering Hiroshima & Nagasaki
By David Krieger, August 1, 2003

Readers's Comments

At 1:45 a.m. on August 6, 1945, a US B-29 bomber, named Enola Gay, took off from Tinian Island in the Mariana Islands. It carried the world’s second atomic bomb, the first having been detonated three weeks earlier at a US test site in Alamogordo, New Mexico. The Enola Gay carried one atomic bomb, with an enriched uranium core. The bomb had been named “Little Boy.” It had an explosive force of some 12,500 tons of TNT. At 8:15 a.m. that morning, as the citizens of Hiroshima were beginning their day, the Enola Gay released its horrific cargo, which fell for 43 seconds before detonating at 580 meters above Shima Hospital near the center of the city.

Here is a description from a pamphlet published by the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum of what happened immediately following the explosion:

“The temperature of the air at the point of explosion reached several million degrees Celsius (the maximum temperature of conventional bombs is approximately 5,000 degrees Celsius). Several millionths of a second after the explosion a fireball appeared, radiating white heat. After 1/10,000th of a second, the fireball reached a diameter of approximately 28 meters with a temperature of close to 300,000 degrees Celsius. At the instant of the explosion, intense heat rays and radiation were released in all directions, and a blast erupted with incredible pressure on the surrounding air.”

As a result of the blast, heat and ensuing fires, the city of Hiroshima was leveled and some 90,000 people in it perished that day. The world’s second test of a nuclear weapon demonstrated conclusively the awesome power of nuclear weapons for killing and maiming. Schools were destroyed and their students and teachers slaughtered. Hospitals with their patients and medical staffs were obliterated. The bombing of Hiroshima was an act of massive destruction of a civilian population, the destruction of an entire city with a single bomb. Harry Truman, president of the United States, upon being notified, said, in egregiously poor judgment, “This is the greatest thing in history.”

Three days after destroying Hiroshima, after failing to find an opening in the clouds over its primary target of the city of Kokura, a US B-29 bomber, named Bockscar, attacked the Japanese city of Nagasaki with the world’s third atomic weapon. This bomb had a plutonium core and an explosive force of some 22,000 tons of TNT. It had been named “Fat Man.” The attack took place at 11:02 a.m. It resulted in the immediate deaths of some 40,000 people.

In his first speech to the US public about the bombing of Hiroshima, which he delivered on August 9, 1945, the day the atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, Harry Truman reported: “The world will note that the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, a military base. That was because we wished in this first attack to avoid, insofar as possible, the killing of civilians.” While Hiroshima did have a military base in the city, it was not the base that was targeted, but the center of the city. The vast majority of the victims in Hiroshima were ordinary civilians, including large numbers of women and children. Truman continued, “But that attack is only a warning of things to come.” Truman went on to refer to the “awful responsibility which has come to us,” and to “thank God that it has come to us, instead of to our enemies.” He prayed that God “may guide us to use it in His ways and for His purpose.” It was a chilling and prophetic prayer.

By the end of 1945, some 145,000 people had died in Hiroshima, and some 75,000 people had died in Nagasaki. Tens of thousands more suffered serious injuries. Deaths among survivors of the bombings have continued over the years due primarily to the effects of radiation poisoning.

Now looking back at these terrible events, inevitably our collective memory has faded and is reshaped by current perspectives. With the passage of time, those who actually experienced the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki have become far fewer in number. Although their own memories of the trauma to themselves and their cities may remain vivid, their stories are unknown by large portions of the world’s population. The message of the survivors has been simple, clear and consistent: “Never Again!” At the Memorial Cenotaph in Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park is this inscription: “Let all souls here rest in peace; for we shall not repeat the evil.” The “we” in the inscription refers to all of us and to each of us.

Yet, the fate of the world, and particularly the fate of humanity, may hang on how we remember Hiroshima and Nagasaki. If we remember the bombings of these cities as just another point in human history, along with many other important points, we may well lack the political will to deal effectively with the challenges that nuclear weapons pose to humanity. If, on the other hand, we remember these bombings as a turning point in human history, a time at which peace became an imperative, we may still find the political will to save ourselves from the fate that befell the inhabitants of these two cities.

In the introduction to their book, Hiroshima in America, Robert Jay Lifton and Greg Mitchell write, “You cannot understand the twentieth century without Hiroshima.” The same may be said of the twenty-first century. The same may be said of the nuclear predicament that confronts humanity. Neither our time nor our future can be adequately understood without understanding what happened at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Since the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki there has been a struggle for memory. The story of the bombings differs radically between what has been told in America and how the survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki recount this tragedy. America’s rendition is a story of triumph – triumph of technology and triumph in war. It views the bomb from above, from the perspective of those who dropped it. For the vast majority of US citizens, the creation of the bomb has been seen as a technological feat of extraordinary proportions, giving rise to the most powerful weapon in the history of warfare. From this perspective, the atomic bombs made possible the complete defeat of Japanese imperial power and brought World War II to an abrupt end.

In the minds of many, if not most US citizens, the atomic bombs saved the lives of perhaps a million US soldiers, and the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki is seen as a small price to pay to save so many lives and bring a terrible war to an end. This view leaves the impression that bombing these cities with atomic weapons was useful, fruitful and an occasion to be celebrated.

The problem with this rendition of history is that the need for dropping the bombs to end the war has been widely challenged by historians. Many scholars, including Lifton and Mitchell, have questioned the official US account of the bombings. These critics have variously pointed out that Japan was attempting to surrender at the time the bombs were dropped, that the US Army Strategic Survey calculated far fewer US casualties from an invasion of Japan, and that there were other ways to end the war without using the atomic bombs on the two Japanese cities.

Among the critics of the use of nuclear weapons at Hiroshima and Nagasaki were leading US military figures. General Dwight Eisenhower, Supreme Allied Commander Europe during World War II and later US president, described his reaction upon having been told by Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson that atomic bombs would be used on Japanese cities:

“During his recitation of the relevant facts, I had been conscious of a feeling of depression and so I voiced to him 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, attempting to surrender with a minimum loss of ‘face’. . . .”

In a post-war interview, Eisenhower told a journalist, “…the Japanese were ready to surrender and it wasn’t necessary to hit them with that awful thing.”

General Henry “Hap” Arnold, Commanding General of the US Army Air Forces during World War II, wrote, “It always appeared to us that, atomic bomb or no atomic bomb, the Japanese were already on the verge of collapse.”

Truman’s Chief of Staff, Admiral William D. Leahy, wrote,

“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 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….”

Despite these powerful statements of dissent from US World War II military leaders, there is still a strong sense in the United States and among its allies that the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were justified by the war. There is insufficient recognition that the victims of the bombings were largely civilians, that those closest to the epicenters of the explosions were incinerated, while those further away were exposed to radiation poisoning, that many suffered excruciatingly painful deaths, and that even today, more than five decades after the bombings, survivors continue to suffer from the effects of the radiation exposure.

The bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are in the past. We cannot resurrect these cities. The residents of these cities have done this for themselves. What we can do is learn from their experience. What they have to teach is perhaps humanity’s most important lesson: We are confronted by the possibility of our extinction as a species, not simply the reality of our individual deaths, but the death of humanity. This possibility became evident at Hiroshima. The great French existential writer, Albert Camus, wrote in the immediate aftermath of the bombing of Hiroshima:

“Our technical civilization has just reached its greatest level of savagery. We will have to choose, in the more or less near future, between collective suicide and the intelligent use of our scientific conquests. Before the terrifying prospects now available to humanity, we see even more clearly that peace is the only battle worth waging. This is no longer a prayer but a demand to be made by all peoples to their governments – a demand to choose definitively between hell and reason.”

To rely upon nuclear weapons for security is to put the future of our species and most of life at risk of annihilation. Humanity is faced with a choice: Eliminate nuclear weapons or continue to run the risk of them eliminating us. Unless we recognize this choice and act upon it, we face the possibility of a global Hiroshima.

Living with Myths

In his book, The Myths of August, former US Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall writes:

“In the first weeks after Hiroshima, extravagant statements by President Truman and other official spokesmen for the US government transformed the inception of the atomic age into the most mythologized event in American history. These exhilarating, excessive utterances depicted a profoundly altered universe and produced a reorientation of thought that influenced the behavior of nations and changed the outlook and the expectations of the inhabitants of this planet.”

Many myths have grown up around the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki that have the effect of making the use of nuclear weapons more palatable. To restate, one such myth is that there was no choice but to use nuclear weapons on these cities. Another is that doing so saved the lives of in excess of one million US soldiers. Underlying these myths is a more general myth that US leaders can be expected to do what is right and moral. To conclude that our leaders did the wrong thing by acting immorally at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, slaughtering civilian populations, flies in the face of this widespread understanding of who we are as a people. To maintain our sense of our own decency, reflected by the actions of our leaders, may require us to bend the facts to fit our myths.

When a historical retrospective of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki – which was to include the reservations of US military leaders such as Eisenhower, Arnold and Leahy – was planned for the fiftieth anniversary commemorations of these events at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, a major outcry of opposition arose from veteran’s groups and members of the US Congress. In the end, the Smithsonian exhibition was reduced under pressure from a broad historical perspective on the bombings to a display and celebration of the Enola Gay, the B-29 that dropped the bomb on Hiroshima.

Our Myths Help Shape Our Ethical Perspectives

Our understanding of Hiroshima and Nagasaki helps to give rise to our general orientation toward nuclear weapons. Because of our myths about the benefits of using nuclear weapons at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, there is a tendency to view nuclear weapons in a positive light. Despite the moral issues involved in destroying civilian populations, most US citizens can justify reliance on such weapons for our “protection.” A good example of this rationalization is found in the views of many students at the University of California about the role of their university in the management of the US nuclear weapons laboratories.

Recently, I spoke to a class of students at the University of California at Santa Barbara. I presented the students with a hypothetical situation. They were asked to imagine that they were students at a prestigious German university during the 1930s after the Nazis had come to power. They discovered a secret laboratory at their university where professors were researching and developing gas chambers and incinerators for the Nazis to use in exterminating their enemies. I then posed the question: What were their ethical responsibilities after making this discovery?

The hypothetical generated a lively discussion. The students took their ethical responsibilities within the hypothetical situation seriously. They realized that there would be danger in overtly opposing the development of these genocidal devices. Nonetheless, they were willing to take risks to prevent the university from going forward with their program to develop the gas chambers and incinerators. Some were ready to go to the authorities at the university to protest. Others were prepared to form small groups and make plans to secretly sabotage the program. Others were intent upon escaping the country to let the world know what was happening in order to bring international pressure to bear upon the Nazi regime. The students were not neutral and most expressed a strong desire to act courageously in opposition to this university program, even if their futures and possibly their lives would be at risk.

After listening to the impressive ethical stands that the students were willing to take and congratulating them, I changed the hypothetical. I asked them to consider that it was now some 70 years later and that they were students at the University of California in the year 2003. This, of course, is not hypothetical. The students are in fact enrolled at the University of California at Santa Barbara. I asked them to imagine that their university, the University of California, was involved in the research and development of nuclear weapons, that their university managed the US nuclear weapons laboratories that had researched and developed nearly all of the nuclear weapons in the US arsenal. This also happens to be true since the University of California has long managed the US nuclear weapons laboratories at Los Alamos and Livermore.

After presenting the students with this scenario, I asked them to consider their ethical responsibilities. I was expecting that they would reach similar conclusions to the first hypothetical, that they would express dismay at discovering that their university was involved in the research and development of weapons of mass destruction and would be prepared to oppose this situation. This time, however, only a small number of students expressed the same sense of moral outrage at their university’s involvement and indicated a willingness to take risks in protesting this involvement. Many of the students felt that they had no ethical responsibilities under these circumstances.

Many students sought to distinguish the two scenarios. In the first scenario, some said, it was known that the gas chambers and incinerators were to be used for the purpose of committing genocide. In the second scenario, the one they were actually living in, they didn’t believe that the nuclear weapons would be used. They pointed out that nuclear weapons had not been used for more than 50 years and, therefore, they thought it was unlikely that they would be used in the future. Further, they didn’t think that the United States would actually use nuclear weapons because our leaders would feel constrained from doing so. Finally, they thought that the United States had a responsibility to defend itself, which they believed nuclear weapons would do.

Frankly, I was surprised by the results of this exercise. I had expected that the students would oppose both scenarios and that their idealism would call for protest against their university’s management of the nuclear weapons laboratories. In the second scenario, however, they had many rationales and/or rationalizations for not becoming involved. This scenario was not hypothetical. It was real. It would actually demand something of them. Many were reluctant to commit themselves. Most had accepted the mythology about our leaders doing the right thing and the further mythology about nuclear weapons protecting us. They had not thought through the risks associated with possessing and deploying large numbers of nuclear weapons. They had not considered the risks of accidents and miscalculations, the dangers of faulty communications and irrational leaders. They had not considered the possibilities that deterrence could fail and the result could be future Hiroshimas and Nagasakis, in fact, globalized Hiroshimas and Nagasakis.

Most of the students were able to avoid accepting personal responsibility for the involvement of their university in the process of developing weapons of mass destruction. Some also dismissed their personal responsibility on the basis that the university did not belong solely to them and that in fact nuclear weapons were a societal problem. They were, of course, right about this: nuclear weapons are a societal problem. Unfortunately, it is a problem for which far too few individuals are taking personal ethical responsibility. The students represented a microcosm of a larger societal problem of indifference and inaction in the face of our present reliance on nuclear weapons. The result of this inaction is tragically the likelihood that eventually these weapons will again be used with horrendous consequences for humanity.

Making the Nuclear Weapons Threat Real

Just as most of these students do not take personal ethical responsibility to protest involvement in nuclear weapons research and development by their university, most leaders and potential leaders of nuclear weapons states do not accept the necessity of challenging the nuclear status quo and working to achieve nuclear disarmament.

What helped me to understand the horrendous consequences and risks of nuclear weapons was a visit to the memorial museums at Hiroshima and Nagasaki when I was 21 years old. These museums keep alive the memory of the destructiveness of the relatively small nuclear weapons that were used on these two cities. They also provide a glimpse into the human suffering caused by nuclear weapons. I have long believed that a visit to one or both of these museums should be a requirement for any leader of a nuclear weapons state. Without visiting these museums and being exposed by film, artifacts and displays to the devastation that nuclear weapons cause, it is difficult to grasp the extent of the destructiveness of these devices. One realizes that nuclear weapons are not even weapons at all, but something far more ominous. They are instruments of genocide and perhaps omnicide, the destruction of all.

To the best of my knowledge, no head of state or government of a nuclear weapons state has actually visited these museums before or during his or her term in office. If political leaders will not make the effort to visit the sites of nuclear devastation, then it is necessary for the people of their countries to bring the message of these cities to them. But first, of course, the people must themselves be exposed to the stories and messages of these cities. It is unrealistic to expect that many people will travel to Hiroshima or Nagasaki to visit the memorial museums, but it is not unrealistic to bring the messages of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to communities all over the world.

In Santa Barbara, where the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation is located, we have tried to bring the message of Hiroshima to our community and beyond. On the 50th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima we created a peace memorial garden that we named Sadako Peace Garden. The name Sadako comes from that of a young girl, Sadako Sasaki, who was exposed to radiation as a two-year-old in Hiroshima when the bomb fell. Sadako lived a normal life for the next ten years until she developed leukemia as a result of the radiation exposure. During her hospitalization, Sadako folded paper cranes in the hopes of recovering her health. The crane is a symbol of health and longevity in Japan, and it is believed that if one folds one thousand paper cranes they will have their wish come true. Sadako wished to regain her health and for peace in the world. On one of her paper cranes she wrote this short poem, “I will write peace on your wings and you will fly all over the world.”

Sadako did not finish folding her one thousand paper cranes before her short life came to an end. Her classmates, however, responded to Sadako’s courage and her wish for peace by finishing the job of folding the thousand paper cranes. Soon Sadako’s story began to spread, and throughout Japan children folded paper cranes in remembrance of her and her wish for peace. Tens of thousands of paper cranes poured into Hiroshima from all over Japan. Eventually, Sadako’s story spread throughout the world, and today many children in distant lands have heard of Sadako and have folded paper cranes in her memory.

In Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park there stands a monument to Sadako. At the base of that monument is this message, “This is our cry. This is our prayer. For peace in this world.” It is the message of children throughout the world who honor Sadako’s memory.
....

At the time of the exhibit, several hibakusha, survivors of the bombings, visited our community and spoke in public about their experiences. They brought to life the horrors of nuclear weapons by relating their personal experiences. There are also many books that collect the stories of atomic bomb survivors. It is nearly impossible to hear or read of their experiences without being deeply moved.

Here is the description of one hibakusha, Miyoko Matsubara, who was a 12-year-old schoolgirl in Hiroshima at the time of the bombing. Her description begins upon awakening from being unconscious after the bombing:
“I had no idea how long I had lain unconscious, but when I regained consciousness the bright sunny morning had turned into night. Takiko, who had stood next to me, had simply disappeared from my sight. I could see none of my friends nor any other students. Perhaps they had been blown away by the blast.
“I rose to my feet surprised. All that was left of my jacket was the upper part around my chest. And my baggy working trousers were gone, leaving only the waistband and a few patches of cloth. The only clothes left on me were dirty white underwear.
“Then I realized that my face, hands, and legs had been burned, and were swollen with the skin peeled off and hanging down in shreds. I was bleeding and some areas had turned yellow. Terror struck me, and I felt that I had to go home. And the next moment, I frantically started running away from the scene forgetting all about the heat and pain.
“On my way home, I saw a lot of people. All of them were almost naked and looked like characters out of horror movies with their skin and flesh horribly burned and blistered. The place around the Tsurumi bridge was crowded with many injured people. They held their arms aloft in front of them. Their hair stood on end. They were groaning and cursing. With pain in their eyes and furious looks on their faces, they were crying out for their mothers to help them.
“I was feeling unbearably hot, so I went down to the river. There were a lot of people in the water crying and shouting for help. Countless dead bodies were being carried away by the water - some floating, some sinking. Some bodies had been badly hurt, and their intestines were exposed. It was a horrible sight, yet I had to jump in the water to save myself from heat I felt all over.”
After describing her personal struggle as a survivor of the bombing, Miyoko Matsubara offered this message to the young people of the world: “Nuclear weapons do not deter war. Nuclear weapons and human beings cannot co-exist. We all must learn the value of human life. If you do not agree with me on this, please come to Hiroshima and see for yourself the destructive power of these deadly weapons at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum.”
.....

Sorry for the length.
IMO, only possible inilation of our people could be cause for such action. The need for the blasts are undercut by several senoir military officials of the time and from other sources.

I find it difficult to fathom how one can dismiss these civilians casualties as necessary and howl over lost US lives. I guess my Partriotism doesn't extend into some superiority idea of US blood. I mean, I'm German, English, and Irish American, as Waspy as they come and IMO my blood is not worth one iota more than my Oriental friend's. So how can one justify mass civilian killing?
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Old 08-08-2003, 11:42 PM   #2
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Re: 58 years ago ...

Quote:
Originally posted by Scarletwine
I was not taught to make war in that fashion, and wars cannot be won by destroying women and children….”
I agree 100% with this.

It is easy to win a war against civillian targets. It is also, IMO, reprehensible and appalling.
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Old 08-09-2003, 12:32 AM   #3
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I can hardly breath. really - I'm speachless.. I'm listening to "So Cruel" crying.
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Old 08-09-2003, 02:24 AM   #4
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Re: 58 years ago ...

Quote:
Originally posted by Scarletwine

Harry Truman, president of the United States, upon being notified, said, in egregiously poor judgment, “This is the greatest thing in history.”
...
He prayed that God “may guide us to use it in His ways and for His purpose.”

Umm...
I think a 4yr old with the lowest levels of intelligence could explain to Truman what is wrong with this.
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Old 08-09-2003, 03:43 AM   #5
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It's frightening and sad how little we have learned. No enemy deserves that fate. Furthermore, why is it wrong to express remorse or even reflect on what happened? (I'm not sure why our unwillingness to admit the ugly truth, that it was unneccessary, surprises me...)

The only thing I'm grateful for is that a few people did have sense enough during the atomic age *not* to use it again. MacArthur pushed to drop 50 or so of them in China. We were readily prepared to drop one on the Soviet Union--they were prepared to drop one on us. No one then knew about the radiation, so they were more eager to use it.

Of course, that's not to say that I feel safer today, or trust that our leaders will never use them again. I believe it's only the knowledge of it's poisonous aftereffects that keeps us cautious--not the devestation.

Now, if we'd only carry our reserve and caution farther and destroy them altogether.
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Old 08-09-2003, 07:21 AM   #6
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I never thought I'd actually be seen as "defending" this, but I really don't view it as this anyway. I'm not defending what happened, but it is very easy to peer back 58 years later and pass judgment on an event. It is much harder to have actually lived it, and I'm sure that President Truman felt that what he did was right at the time. There was no concept of "limited war" then; you just used the greatest weapon you had to defeat your enemy. In fact, if it weren't for Truman's decision to not use nuclear weapons in the Korean War--in sharp contrast to Gen. MacArthur's opinion--we wouldn't be so hesitant to use them today.

The fact of the matter is that nuclear weapons were going to be developed no matter what, whether it be from Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union. While it is probably one of our saddest moments in 20th century history (I say that, because, despite romanticist claims, most of our past is far more bloodier and sicker), the timing of these weapons have probably--and ironically--prevented our destruction by those weapons. After all, no nation has used them since, out of fear.

I could probably talk forever about this subject, after having studied post-WWII occupation-era Japan (1945 to around 1955) for a semester. While I can't defend their usage in WWII, I think it is very unwise to look back at something with rose-colored 2003 lenses.

The fact of the matter is that it is over. Maybe, in due time, we can stop our fixation with WWII and move on.

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Old 08-09-2003, 07:33 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally posted by melon

The fact of the matter is that it is over. Maybe, in due time, we can stop our fixation with WWII and move on.

Melon
I agree with you, however the survivors, ever dwindling, do not want the world to forget. I also think it is important to bring it back into the public's eye, with the current administrations threatening to use nuclear bombs if needed (who decides?), their wish to develop new bombs, and backing out of treaties.

I also think it's interesting that military officials of the time, including D.D.E. debunk the standard theory of "the only way to end the war" ect.
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Old 08-09-2003, 10:23 AM   #8
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And in another 58 years, they will find the whole idea of WWII reprehensible. Melon's right, the world's mind-set in 1945 was much different than it is today.
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Old 08-09-2003, 11:15 AM   #9
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[Q]In Santa Barbara, where the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation is located, we have tried to bring the message of Hiroshima to our community and beyond. On the 50th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima we created a peace memorial garden that we named Sadako Peace Garden. The name Sadako comes from that of a young girl, Sadako Sasaki, who was exposed to radiation as a two-year-old in Hiroshima when the bomb fell. Sadako lived a normal life for the next ten years until she developed leukemia as a result of the radiation exposure. During her hospitalization, Sadako folded paper cranes in the hopes of recovering her health. The crane is a symbol of health and longevity in Japan, and it is believed that if one folds one thousand paper cranes they will have their wish come true. Sadako wished to regain her health and for peace in the world. On one of her paper cranes she wrote this short poem, “I will write peace on your wings and you will fly all over the world.”

Sadako did not finish folding her one thousand paper cranes before her short life came to an end. Her classmates, however, responded to Sadako’s courage and her wish for peace by finishing the job of folding the thousand paper cranes. Soon Sadako’s story began to spread, and throughout Japan children folded paper cranes in remembrance of her and her wish for peace. Tens of thousands of paper cranes poured into Hiroshima from all over Japan. Eventually, Sadako’s story spread throughout the world, and today many children in distant lands have heard of Sadako and have folded paper cranes in her memory.

In Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park there stands a monument to Sadako. At the base of that monument is this message, “This is our cry. This is our prayer. For peace in this world.” It is the message of children throughout the world who honor Sadako’s memory. [/Q]

In my classroom we read the story Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes. It is an account of the story of Sadako. It does not point the finger at anyone nor does it place blame. It is however an excellent story to get children to think about the consequences of the actions we take and their long term ramifications.

After reading this story we spend time teaching the kids how to make paper cranes. I hope that when they make or see paper cranes they remember Sadako and the implications of her story.
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Old 08-09-2003, 11:29 AM   #10
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When a historical retrospective of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki – which was to include the reservations of US military leaders such as Eisenhower, Arnold and Leahy – was planned for the fiftieth anniversary commemorations of these events at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, a major outcry of opposition arose from veteran’s groups and members of the US Congress. In the end, the Smithsonian exhibition was reduced under pressure from a broad historical perspective on the bombings to a display and celebration of the Enola Gay, the B-29 that dropped the bomb on Hiroshima.
There are many pieces to this article that I do not agree with. There are many things that I do agree with. I do think it is very important that the First Hand accounts are presented. The first hand accounts from the victims, the first hand accounts from those in the administration opposed to the the dropping of the bomb, and the first hand accounts of those in favor of dropping the bomb. The article does not include the latter group and maybe this is in response to the fact that the people in the administration opposed to its use have not always been included in the history that has been taught.

However this battle to present the FACTS is not just difficult for us here in the US. It is also going on in Japan. Their museums have also changed their presentations of the FACTS on this matter, clinging to some and disregarding others. It is interesting that our museums and theirs are moving in opposite directions .

[Q]Beyond Accusation and Self-Pity in Japanese and United States Peace Museums[1]



Gregory Mason, Gustavus Adolphus College, St. Peter, MN, USA



In this paper, I examine how critical and sensitive events of World War II are being remembered in museum exhibits in Japan and in the United States. World War II and its aftermath set the terms for a world order that is in many respects still in place. Contested memories of the crucial events and unresolved demands for apologies and compensation still percolate through the political systems of the former combatants, and within popular culture, whether in the form of feature length films, debates over curriculum, parades, or the activities of different veterans’ groups. World War II began for the United States with Pearl Harbor and ended with the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Both sets of actions provoked a response of moral outrage on the part of the respective victim nations. More generally, the conduct of combatant nations during the war, as well as the collaboration by occupied nations, have proven to be a continuing source of embarrassment and national shame. As the records become more fully revealed, it becomes clear that all the major powers in World War II were guilty of war crimes to some degree. Even so, only very limited acknowledgment of these deeds has yet taken place. Political considerations make it difficult for nations to publicly acknowledge past transgressions, since to do so would appear to undercut or invalidate the sacrifices of those who gave their lives to the struggle. Veterans and the families of veterans are particularly sensitive in this regard. In the construction of national narratives, the martyrdom of the fallen heroes for a righteous cause is an article of faith that politicians, historians, and museum curators tamper with at their peril. Reconciliation can only be realized when each side confronts and acknowledges the full meaning of its own past actions.

The continuing controversies surrounding World War II and the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki can be classified into four distinct positions: orthodoxy and revisionism in Japan, and a parallel orthodoxy and revisionism in the United States. Each position is characterized by a particular memory of the War and how it ended, and each is bolstered by a particular set of institutions and organizational interests. Moreover, each carries a distinct “lesson” for international relations, particularly with regard to the proper military and political roles for nuclear weapons.

To begin with Japan, this nation has had an extraordinarily difficult task to accomplish in attempting to confront its past. Criticism has come from different sources. Especially in Asia, voices are strong for Japan to own up to the many atrocities it committed from 1930 to 1945 throughout East and South East Asia. At home, Japan has had to face powerful right wing constituencies who refuse to acknowledge any narrative of Japan’s actions which would cast her as clearly guilty on the world stage at large, stripped of her national pride and self esteem. The nationalistic elements insist that Japan’s imperialist expansionism was no different from the former actions of the colonial Western powers. They refuse to acknowledge past transgressions, and even glorify Japan’s exploits of aggression and oppression in Asia as legitimate expressions of opposition to Western colonialism. Furthermore, these unrepentant right wing forces now wish for Japan to reinstate an aggressive military presence. Aggravated by her recent economic recession, Japan has experienced a concerted resurgence of this nationalistic and militaristic sentiment, especially in Tokyo, with the aim to abandon the war-renouncing Article Nine of the Japanese constitution. In this climate, efforts to underwrite and construct a peace museum in Tokyo, the capital city, have been conspicuously unsuccessful. Grassroots support has been weak, and instead, the Japan Association of War Bereaved Families has seized the initiative, attempting to gain support for the construction of a Peace Memorial Museum of the War Dead, which would restrict itself to honoring Japan’s own victims

At the same time, there is a preponderant weight of public sentiment in Japan deeply committed to the cause of peace. As victims of the suffering caused by their country’s misguided acts aggression, and especially as victims of the atomic bombings, the Japanese people have experienced in full measure the misery of war, and they want no more part of it. An overwhelming majority of school districts, for example, recently voted to reject revised that textbooks remove mention of Japan’s responsibility for atrocities committed during the War in the Pacific. Elsewhere, Japanese students have formed protective cordons around selected movie theaters, hoping to protect them against right wing attacks that followed the screening of a film about the massacre at Nanjing. And at least some academics and journalists continue to push for a full accounting of the past.

Such efforts have found a principal focus in the way that Japan has recently been revising its peace museums. Until recently, the Hiroshima and Nagasaki peace museums focused largely on the physical and human destruction of those two cities, and on the need to initiate stronger arms control of nuclear weapons. Visitors to those peace museums could circle large-scale “before and after” models, examine photographs and charts, inspect artifacts, and watch and listen to the taped testimony of hibakusha, the “A-bomb damaged persons” of the August 1945 tragedies. The exhibitions emphasized the awesome, horrifying aspects of the bombings and the destruction that they wrought, casting the Japanese almost solely as victims, with Hiroshima proclaimed henceforth as the “eternal city of peace.”

While establishing a comprehensive and concrete record of the impact of the bombing was absolutely essential, some visitors to the museums found this method of presentation to be limited. More specifically, by concentrating on the admittedly appalling casualties of innocent people, Japan cast itself only as a victim of U.S. bombing. But many questions remained: What about Japan’s own policy of colonialism toward China, Indochina, Manchuria, the Philippines, Indonesia, and other parts of the Pacific? What about Japanese behavior toward the innocent people in the extensive areas occupied by its military forces? Or the often brutal treatment of prisoners-of-war? Finally, what about Pearl Harbor? Tokyo’s behavior in these areas might--or might not—have justified the use of atomic weapons to kill hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians at the end of a war whose outcome was no longer in doubt. In either case, to many foreign visitors to the peace museums the significance of this surrounding history could not be ignored.

A small but significant number of Japanese agreed. Members of the political left, the peace activist community, professional curators, and, most significantly, the recent mayors of both Hiroshima and Nagasaki, supported a revision of the respective museums’ exhibitions. After the first set of changes, carried out during the first half of the 1990s, the entrance room to the A-Bomb Museum in Hiroshima now displays a series of previously suppressed posters and photographs that document the military’s role in the history of the city. A principal army headquarters and a large munitions manufacturer, Hiroshima was a vital center of Japanese militarism and a logical wartime target. Display panels also indicate a new official willingness on the part of Japan to accept some responsibility for the events that precipitated the bombing of Hiroshima. A panel entitled “Lessons of History” reminds its mostly Japanese visitors that "Japan, too, with its colonization policies and wars of aggression inflicted incalculable and irreversible harm on the peoples of many countries." It continues: "We must reflect on war and the causes of war, not just nuclear weapons. We must learn from the lessons of history that we may learn to identify and avoid the paths that lead to war." Another panel exhorts its readers that "Internalization must begin with speaking the truth about the role each country played in the war. We must find a way to make our mutual pain a positive gift for the future."

An illustration of this more open stance is the museum’s treatment of the Japanese massacre of civilians in the Chinese City of Nanjing. The caption accompanying a photograph of a lantern parade to celebrate the capture of the city reads: “Early in the war with China, the Japanese army occupied many Chinese cities. In December 1937, it took the capital city, Nanking [sic]. The occupation of this important city cheered the Japanese people, who considered the war raging in China a holy crusade...In Nanking, however, Chinese were being slaughtered by the Japanese army. Estimates of the number of victims have varied according to time and place from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands. The Chinese government places the figure at 300,000”

The enlarged and reorganized Nagasaki museum also documents the conscription of Korean laborers for the local war factories (many of whom also died in the August 9th bombing). Visitors can select from a series of videotaped interviews with Nagasaki’s hibakusha. But the choices now include an Australian prisoner-of-war who actually defends the bombing in no uncertain terms. The original emphasis on the multiple consequences of the bombing was not ignored. Indeed, newer technology and exhibition techniques highlight the appalling impact of atomic bombs on human beings. But visitors can now review different voices and consider evidence that supports more than one perspective on the bombing itself.

Overall, Japan has witnessed a remarkable growth of peace museums in the years since World War II. Upwards of thirty such institutions range from the original atomic bomb museums in the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, to major, regionally funded museums like Peace Osaka in Osaka , to a host of private museums devoted to more specialized peace-related topics. Many conservative and nationalist public figures in Japan have bitterly denounced these innovative policies in the principal peace museums. Unknown persons destroyed a section of the Nagasaki peace sculpture garden, and defaced memorials established for the Korean victims of the bomb. Nevertheless, these museums have doubtless played a significant educational role in peace education for the nation. As a case in point, a visit to the Hiroshima Memorial Peace Museum has long since become an integral part of the curriculum of junior high schools nationwide. The museums’ new candor may free us to remember a fundamental point: Hiroshima and Nagasaki are the only two places where atomic weapons have been used against human beings, and hundreds of thousands of innocent people died. Moving away from the singular focus on Japan “as victim” may make it more possible to use the memory of those tragedies to strengthen current peace movements seeking the abolition of nuclear weapons from the face of the earth.

There are a surprising number of similarities when comparing the case of Japan and her reckoning with her World War II past with that of the United States. Each country exhibits a selective memory which focuses sharply on the crimes committed by the other side, and yet remains oblivious to its own record of culpability.
Gar Alperovitz probes what he calls “the complicity of silence” that has prevented the United States from dealing with the question of whether the dropping of the atomic bombs was militarily required. At the close of the Vietnam War forfeited her former position of moral authority in world affairs, and a widespread sense of confusion and humiliation characterized the nation. World War II, by contrast, increasingly assumed iconic significance as a touchstone of remembrance of America’s former claim to moral leadership as the savior of the free world and vanquisher of fascism. Any attempt to challenge this sacred status still meets with great anger on the part of the governing class.

In 1995, the preparations of the leading historical museum in the United States, the Smithsonian Institution, for an extensive exhibition of the events surrounding the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, appeared to reverse the inclination toward forgetting. The curators stated that they wanted to raise hard questions, to investigate the legitimacy and consequences of the decision to use the atomic bomb. Besides chronicling the development of the atomic bomb program in the United States and the evolution of the B-29 aircraft, the Smithsonian made arrangements to document the human cost of the bombing on the populations of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Several Japanese museums and a number of private citizens were scheduled to contribute to this section of the exhibition. The planned exhibit would have contained an extensive collective of photographs, artifacts, and testimonials. Many of President Truman’s leading advisors supported the use of the bomb. Others, however, harbored doubts and argued that some combination of the Soviet entry into the war, a test or demonstration off the Japanese coast, or the face-saving device of permitting Japan to surrender while retaining the Emperor, would end the war without killing hundreds of thousands of civilians in Japan or adding to the already high loss of life among Allied armed forces. The museum drafted a “script” that avoided a judgement of its own yet would have also contained a complex and multi-sided exploration of all these issues. The sensitivity to the human dimension of the two bombings, as well as the critical, reflexive stance on the reading of history brought the planned exhibition toward the category of “peace museum.” In fact, former director of the National Air and Space Museum Martin Harwitt said he wanted the museum to come forward and “play a role in reflecting and mediating the claims of various groups, and perhaps help construct a new idea of ourselves as a nation.”

An Advisory Group of professional historians gave the first draft of the script generally positive reviews, but many military, government, and veteran groups were dismayed. They felt betrayed and angry by the Smithsonian’s plans to tell “multiple stories” about the necessity of the bomb to end the war. The Air Force Association, many members of Congress, and veterans’ organizations mobilized themselves in an extensive campaign against the exhibition as it was then planned. “Too many victims,” complained one letter from a veteran’s organization. “Too much American guilt,” said another. As the pressure mounted, the Smithsonian revised the script again and again. Those supporting the orthodox point of justifying the use of the bomb were not satisfied until they forced a fundamental redesign of the entire project. Instead of the material from Japan documenting the human consequences of the August 6th and 9th events, and a balanced presentation containing different points of view over the necessity of using the bomb, the “Enola Gay” opened in 1995 with little material on the atomic bombing other than an extensive section of the refurbished B-29 fuselage.

A large part of the problem with the envisaged atomic bombing exhibit was due to the fact that the Smithsonian is a public institution housed in the nation’s capital.

It makes a considerable difference whether an exhibit of this kind reflecting upon and criticizing past government actions, is presented by a state sponsored or by a private institution. In the case of a publicly sponsored event, this becomes de facto some kind of official statement of a government’s attitude toward a subject, while private individuals or groups could be seen as exercising their minority right to free speech. In this case, veterans’ groups were incensed, and their pressure essentially aborted the original project, reducing it to a very much scaled down version, which focused on the aircraft the Enola Gay, and the actual dropping of the bomb, largely devoid of context. It becomes clear that Japan’s problems with developing a “national” peace museum in the capital city of Tokyo are mirrored by the United States’ inability to mount a public exhibition fully revisiting the history of the atomic bombing in its capital city. Any United States attempt to found a comprehensive, public peace museum in Washington DC would likely face opposition of equal strength to that in Tokyo.

As in Japan, more forthright presentations have been possible in the United States away from the influence of the nation 's capital and freed from the strictures of government funding. For example, in 1999, in collaboration with several Japanese Peace Museums, Tufts University in Boston staged an exhibition titled “Hiroshima and Nagasaki: The Fallout.” “Fallout” referred to two kinds of legacies: radiation, and the political, economic, and cultural consequences of the nuclear race. Sections of the exhibition were “conventional” peace museum exhibits in their focus on the human costs of the bombing, and the exploration of the impact of the construction of atomic weapons on the environment and social life of the United States. One section chronicled the efforts of millions to oppose the arms race; another contained a remarkable series of photographs by Richard Misrach of nuclear weapons test sites in the southwestern desert. Visitors were able to tour a fallout shelter, and to see and touch the metal casing of a duplicate of “Fat Man,” the bomb that was used over Nagasaki. Strands of multicolored origami cranes hung throughout the room, particularly close to scenes of devastation and human tragedy.

Most distinctive about the exhibition was an exercise that invited visitors to remember Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the broad historical context of the War in the Pacific. The intent was to hold many of the particular tragic events in the context of each other so that the existing inclination of a visitor to focus on any event in particular, such as the sneak attack against Pearl Harbor, was both supported and yet challenged by material which documented a different tragedy, such as the internment of Japanese-Americans. The exhibition’s intent was to demonstrate that no government or military could claim the moral high ground. The exercise fit into the construct of the peace museum because any particular claim rooted in a straightforward nationalist reading of “right” and “wrong” would be challenged by another claim, which ran in a different direction.

Visitors were asked to hold each of these memories together while considering Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Did the consideration of all of these events in the light of each other induce a change in perception? Did it nurture a new inclination to detach perceptions from the standpoint of either Washington or Tokyo, and to now see the problem more broadly as the nature and consequence of war itself? What if we valued our potential to reconcile and rebuild as well as our capacity to destroy? Could we replace the usual attempt to fix blame with a more sensitive appreciation of what war does to human beings no matter where they live? Can we recognize that in war, no one can lay privileged claim on the right to feel grief? Would our memories - and our futures - change?

This paper has reviewed some of the controversies surrounding the exhibition of World War II in the Pacific. Each position singles out a particular set of images from the atomic bombings themselves, and selects from the particular events and tragedies that mark the history of the War in the Pacific. The messages of each camp are supported by a competing set of organizational and institutional actors, and each position sustains a particular set of policies, particularly with regard to the U.S.-Japan security alliance or the possibilities of a reduced U.S. military presence in the Pacific region and movement toward nuclear abolition. The arguments among the different positions are not just a state-dominated exercise among political elites but a more complex and pluralistic series of encounters with many themes, actors, and driving forces that carry both the possibility of social transformation and continuity in existing foreign policy priorities

Interestingly, the orthodox positions in Japan and in the United States reinforce each other. Each position shares a strong interest in preserving a decontextualized treatment of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Whether through sanitized textbooks or a truncated Smithsonian museum exhibition, neither position prefers an intensive exploration of the events surrounding the use of nuclear weapons against civilians. In Japan, the narrow focus is on the destructive power of the bombs themselves. Japan appears as victim. In the Washington, the preferred theme is the technical development and delivery of the bomb as World War II is finally brought to a successful conclusion. The United States is the victor. The symbol for the first is the burning of the two cities; the symbol for the second is the Enola Gay. The seeming tensions between the two positions are overlain with fundamental continuities: each projects a nationalist mythology that has won over a significant number of citizens, each enjoys the general support of its governing class, and neither interferes with the network of commercial interests that link the two countries. In fact, the policy framework that is secured by both is the U.S. Japan Mutual Security Treaty.

The controversies linking the revisionist camps in both countries revolve around the difficulties of “truth telling about war.” The “deconstruction of military memory” by peace museums raises the issue of the intentionality in the constructive effort of creating alternative memories. It is simply not sufficient to say that the bomb was morally wrong or that it was unnecessary in military terms. Nor is it sufficient to focus solely on the tragic human dimensions of the act. The need remains to intentionally construct an alternative vision which substitutes for the argument that war and the preparation for war bring justifiable political outcomes. The formation of this alternative collides, often dramatically, with the nationalist dimensions of the state project.

The politics of interpreting and exhibiting recent history is highly charged. At stake are different narratives with radically different possible meanings ascribed to them. In the difficult task of coming to terms with the past, peace museums can help interpret history for their citizenry, to display past events, and to problematize them to the extent that they remain still unresolved and their meanings unclear. In presenting the past, it is fruitless simply to castigate a nation by the standards of an abstract morality. However, when an exhibit successfully locates past actions, now condemned as immoral, within the historical context in which they took place, a more hopeful process may occur. The logic of past misdeeds, while not excusable, might be seen as at least partly understandable. Understanding how the possibly wayward cultural norms of a time might combine with the press of extreme circumstances to produce startlingly amoral actions can be immensely enlightening. It can create a more humanizing, less judgmental space in which both the perpetrators and the victims might find some common ground. Expertly mounted museum exhibits can provide a physical setting and an occasion where such powerful public and private dramas of confrontation and redemption can be reenacted.

There appears to be considerable evidence from different sources that many Japanese people, if not the government itself, are now willing to confront the realities of World War II, including the part they played as the aggressors in its tragedies and atrocities. It is to be hoped that other nations, including the United States, are also approaching this point. Fifty years ago, the United States was able to preside over the War Crimes Tribunal in Nuremberg and the Tokyo War Crimes Trial, sitting as the judge and dispensing moral judgments. The question now arises: is the United States also capable of joining the search for a more honest review of the history of World War II, a history that would acknowledge both its contributions in defeating fascism and its share of responsibility for the wrongdoings that were perpetrating during the war?. Courageous and imaginative exhibits by peace museums can play an important part in bringing all nations along in this process.




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[1] This paper is an abbreviated version of an article authored by Gregory Mason and Paul Joseph, "Moving Beyond Accusation and Self Pity." Peace Review 14:4 (2002) 465-480.
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Old 08-09-2003, 03:26 PM   #11
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Dreadsox,

I agree with your sentiment wholeheartedly. I think it is difficult for a nation to recognize mistakes it may have made in the past, particularly when those involved are still around. The genocide of Native Americans and slavery are more palatable errors for our country as more time has passed.

Every one makes mistakes, and country's decision are often made by "one". But I love history and the first lesson is learn from the past, so I think it is important to retell the story.

I also agree that the article only presents one side but one that is seldom heard in the US.
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Old 08-09-2003, 04:14 PM   #12
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And in another 58 years, they will find the whole idea of WWII reprehensible. Melon's right, the world's mind-set in 1945 was much different than it is today.

I'm not so sure that will ever be the case. Even today, revisionist historians like Howard Zinn have a hard time finding ulterior motives or evidence of widespread dissent for WWII. Even the most alternative of historians admit it to be "the good war." Can world perspective alter enough in 58 years to say no, we never should have gotten involved, we should have just let events in Europe take their genocidal course? I suppose it can, but I really hope we never see that kind of mindset.

Our politics before and after the war certainly have undergone revision and will probably continue to do so. So have our military tactics. But much of it (Yalta, firebombing, civilian targeting, etc.) is not really viewed positively anyway, so not alot will change.

While I think the worship of "The Greatest Generation" will abate and we will look at the war more critically rather than as something sacred, I don't think WWII will ever be viewed as reprehensible, not with the reminder of the Holocaust.
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Old 08-09-2003, 04:26 PM   #13
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[B]In fact, if it weren't for Truman's decision to not use nuclear weapons in the Korean War--in sharp contrast to Gen. MacArthur's opinion--we wouldn't be so hesitant to use them today.
Maybe I'm not getting something, but this argument doesn't make alot of sense to me. Why would Truman's decision further our reluctance?

Because to use the same reasoning, if we'd dropped MacArthur's 50 nuclear bombs on China, we would definitely be more hesitant because there wouldn't have been very much of that hemisphere left.

I'm sure that I'm coming off lke an idiot here.
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Old 08-09-2003, 08:03 PM   #14
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Truman made the decision to not use nuclear weapons in the Korean War, creating the concept of a "limited war." Because of his decision, American policy has, ever since then, been only to use nuclear weapons if they have been used on the U.S. first. Another president may not have been so prudent, and who knows what kind of hell we'd be in now.

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Old 08-11-2003, 05:31 PM   #15
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And in another 58 years, they will find the whole idea of WWII reprehensible. Melon's right, the world's mind-set in 1945 was much different than it is today.
ofcourse, this is true. doesnt make it right at any point though.

also worth mentioning that at this time, concentration camps were quite fine with most governments of the world. canada even constructed one.
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