Although apologists for the atomic bombing of Japan have long claimed that it “saved American lives”, their arguments have always been false and historically ignorant. But while the relevant information belying the justification for the bombings has long been available to historians and military history enthusiasts, it’s now becoming too widely known around the world to ignore.
I suspect the Oppenheimer movie marks the last hurrah of the historical A-bomb mythology.
The whole moral driving force of the project was a fantasy.
In the summer of 1945, British intelligence assembled a group of captured German scientists at a picturesque old house in Godmanchester, near Huntingdon. The house was bugged from basement to attic. The Germans were astonished at news of the bomb and plainly had never got within miles of making one. This has been public knowledge since 1992.
Even more devastating is modern historical research about Japan.
It is clear that Japan’s surrender was not forced by the bombing of Hiroshima or Nagasaki. Japan’s fanatical leadership cared little about civilian deaths (they had not blinked when a firebomb raid in March 1945 killed 100,000 in Tokyo itself). By the time the bomb was ready, there were few Japanese cities of any size left standing.
The scholar Tsuyoshi Hasegawa concluded from Japanese and Soviet records that Japan’s surrender was mainly caused by Stalin’s decision to enter the war. The military leadership feared he would invade Japan from the north and seize large parts of the country.
It has long suited Japan and the US to pretend that the two A-bombs ended the war. Japan can pose as a victim nation. The US, which is embarrassed about being the only country to use the bomb in war, can soothe consciences by saying the action saved tens of thousands of Allied troops from death. But the worrying truth is known to academics and diplomats. So the second great justification for the use of the bomb in 1945 melts away.
What Peter Hitchens happens to omit here is that Japan had been trying to surrender for eight months prior to the bombings, and had offered terms to Gen. Douglas MacArthur that were virtually identical to the terms ultimately accepted after the bombings. Also, it’s clear that Stalin and the Soviet military leadership knew all about the atomic bomb long before the first one was dropped, as evidenced by General Giorgy Zhukov’s memoirs.
After the end of one of the Conference meetings, Truman informed Stalin that the United States now possessed a bomb of exceptional power, without, however, naming it the atomic bomb.
As was later reported abroad, at that moment Churchill pinned his eyes on Stalin’s face, eager to observe his reaction. However, Stalin did not betray his feelings and pretended he saw nothing special in what Truman had said. Both Churchill and many other British and American commentators subsequently surmized that Stalin had probably failed to fathom the significance of the information received.
In actual fact, on returning to his quarters after this meeting Stalin in my presence told Molotov about his conversation with Truman. Molotov reacted immediately: “They are trying to bid up.”
Stalin laughed: “Let them. I’ll have to talk it over with Kurchatov today and get him to speed things up.”
I understood they were talking about the development of the atomic bomb.
It was clear already then that the US Government was going to use the atomic bomb for reaching its imperialist goals from a position of strength. This was corroborated on August 6 and 9. Without any military need whatsoever, the Americans dropped two atomic bombs on the peaceful and densely-populated Japanese cities of Nagasaki and Hiroshima.
– Marshal of Victory: The Autobiography of General Giorgy Zhukov, 1966