60-years back, this week, the then-US President Truman announced to the world:
- "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, in so far as possible, the killing of civilians."
(well, that is what he said!)
We know now that this bombing of a "military base" caused deaths of "about 90,000 people (who) were killed immediately; another 40,000 were injured, many of whom died in protracted agony from radiation sickness. Three days later, a second atomic strike on the city of Nagasaki killed some 37,000 people and injured another 43,000. Together the two bombs eventually killed an estimated 200,000 Japanese civilians."
The current myth is that, but for these atomic bombs, Japan would not have surrendered.... was it so?
Hidden in the history of that time, is an unnoticed footnote - the "Tokyo Fire-Bombing", which the Western press would not touch, and the Japanese survivors would not like to dwell upon... An event which happened months before the atom-bombs and with far more lethal consequences:
The Tokyo Fire-Bombing:
"The night of March 9, 1945, began typically enough for war-weary Tokyo residents. They went to bed hungry, the distant wailing of air-raid sirens lulling them to sleep.
But World War II was about to rouse them violently from their fitful dreams into a waking nightmare. Before the new day dawned, a United States air-raid killed or injured as many as 200,000 people. It obliterated a quarter of all Tokyo's buildings, leaving more than a million people homeless.
The Americans dispatched the first wave of more than 300 bombers from Guam, Saipan and the Tinian Islands, 2,500 kilometres south of Tokyo. Each plane dropped 180 oil-gel sticks, less than a metre long, on the tightly knit neighbourhoods of wooden houses. Then two waves of planes emptied their bays of a lethal cargo: napalm. The resulting inferno unleashed hell on earth.
Kiyoko Kawasaki, then a 36-year-old mother, remembers running into the street with two buckets on her head for protection, walking into a sea of fire and seeing burning bodies floating in the Sumida River. "The prostitutes who hung out by the riverbank jumped into a nearby pond," she recalled. "But the pond was boiling so they all died."
Kyoko Arai was just a middle-school student when she witnessed her neighbourhood burn to the ground in the firebombing. She watched people perish when dancing fireballs set their hair alight. Worse, she remembers mothers running into the air-raid shelters with babies in their arms. "They would try to breast-feed the babies, but actually the babies were dead," Arai said. "Some of the mothers went crazy from the shock."
For survivors, the misery was just beginning. Takae Fujiki, then a 15-year-old high-school student, recalls being "chased" by the bombers. She says they hunted down fleeing civilians to deliberately drop bombs on them. And they napalmed the rivers to cut off an escape route, Fujiki says. "It was obvious they were trying to kill as many of us as possible.""
11 weeks later, on May 23, 520 giant B-29 "Superfortress" bombers unleashed another 4,500 tons of bombs on Tokyo obliterating Tokyo's commercial center and railway yards, and the Ginza entertainment district. Two days later, on May 25, a second strike of 502 "Superfortress" planes rained down some 4,000 tons of explosives. Together these two B-29 raids destroyed 56 square miles of the Japanese capital.
Tokyo Fire-Bombing killed many more people than did the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Even before the Hiroshima-Nagasaki bombing, American air force General Curtis LeMay boasted that American bombers were "driving them [Japanese] back to the stone age."
[Note: In a bizzare act of recognition, in 1964, the Japanese government conferred the First Order of Merit with the Grand Cordon of the Rising Sun upon Gen. Curtis LeMay (the father of Strategic Bombing) - the same general who, less than 20 years earlier, had incinerated "well over half a million Japanese civilians, perhaps nearly a million"... And who as the Chief of Staff of US Air Force in 1964, had warned Vietnam that "we're going to bomb them back into the Stone Age."... A phrase repeated again recently during the bombing of Afghanistan]
Gen. Douglas MacArthur's aide, Brigadier Gen. Bonner Fellers, called Tokyo-Bombings "one of the most ruthless and barbaric killings of noncombatants in all history."
Was Bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki Necessary?
Apparently not. In early 1945, Japanese govennment had sent feelers to find honorable terms of surrender. After the Tokyo-Bombings, these attempts became more overt. As a report mentions:
"In April and May 1945, Japan made three attempts through neutral Sweden and Portugal to bring the war to a peaceful end. On April 7, acting Foreign Minister Mamoru Shigemitsu met with Swedish ambassador Widon Bagge in Tokyo, asking him "to ascertain what peace terms the United States and Britain had in mind." But he emphasized that unconditional surrender was unacceptable, and that "the Emperor must not be touched."... By early July the US had intercepted messages from Togo to the Japanese ambassador in Moscow, Naotake Sato, showing that the Emperor himself was taking a personal hand in the peace effort, and had directed that the Soviet Union be asked to help end the war. US officials also knew that the key obstacle to ending the war was American insistence on "unconditional surrender," a demand that precluded any negotiations. The Japanese were willing to accept nearly everything, except turning over their semi-divine Emperor. Heir of a 2,600-year-old dynasty, Hirohito was regarded by his people as a "living god" who personified the nation."
In 1963, US General Dwight Eisenhower wrote in his memoirs:
"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, seeking some way to surrender with a minimum loss of "face.".... The Japanese were ready to surrender and it wasn't necessary to hit them with that awful thing ... I hated to see our country be the first to use such a weapon."
OK!!!... All this is history. Long forgoten, often justified as the act of one man ("a few rotten apples"). In contrast, Samuel Huntington (of "Clash of Civilisation" fame) wrote:
"...the West won the world not by the superiority of its ideas or values or religion but rather by its superiority in applying organized violence. Westerners often forget this fact, non-Westerners never do."
It is worth a hypothesis to look at present world fromthis light...
....just a thought!