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Tuesday, August 6, 2013

A Real Decision

My great retirement-from-retirement plan not having worked out, I was idly surfing the net reading about the apparent and "surprising" "resurgence" of AQ (will post more on that), when I re-encountered Joe Biden's fawning adoration of Obama's decision on the Osama take down. He labelled Obama's decision, which he took after thinking it over for 16 hours, something like the greatest decision ever or at least the most "audacious plan " in the last 500 years. Right, Joe, right. The Greatest and Most Audacious Plan Since, Since, Since . . . . Well, EVER!

Given today's date, August 6, I couldn't help but think about another decision made by a US president: the decision to go ahead with the atomic bombing of Japan.

The plain-speaking, non-charismatic Truman, a little known Senator and party hack who by almost any political calculus never would have been President, proved a smart, tough and decisive man. He came to power as the war in Europe was wrapping up, but the war in the Pacific was dragging on. The US Navy--including the most successful submarine warfare campaign in history--and the Marines had cut-off Japan from the outside world; the US Army Air Force was taking Japan's cities apart, block by block; and while Japan could not hope to attain anything approaching a victory, it still seemed highly unlikely, almost impossible to imagine the Japanese surrendering without an Allied invasion of the home islands.

Allied planners estimated that the invasion of Japan, "Operation Downfall," would produce AT LEAST 1.2 million American casualties, about one-fourth in deaths; unofficial Navy estimates, which extrapolated from the casualty rates on Iwo Jima and Okinawa,  put American losses considerably higher, with perhaps 800,000 dead--and that did not include the deaths of British, Australian, and other allied forces that would participate in the invasion. Japanese losses were estimated at ten to twelve million; American military leaders were pushing for the use of gas against the Japanese as a means to reduce the Allied body count. There, of course, was no guarantee that the invasion would succeed, and no one could tell how long the battle would go on in Japan--maybe months, maybe years.  The legacy would be a horrid one, indeed.

Truman decided to try to avoid all that horror, and gave the green light to the dropping of the atomic bomb. The risks were enormous. The bombs, which had never been tested as bombs, might fail; we only had enough material for at most three; and, of course,the Japanese might still refuse to surrender even after two or three such atomic attacks.

The first bomb, of course, was dropped on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, and the second on Nagasaki three days later, killing outright a total of something over 100,000 persons. Japan surrendered soon after, but not before some die-hard officers sought to launch a coup to prevent the Emperor from announcing the surrender. In the brutal arithmetic of war, that was a cheap price to pay for an end to the conflict.

Now that was a decision. Obama cannot hold a candle to that one.

WLA

26 comments:

  1. I think that with Truman the decision to use the bomb was not risky. So what if it didn't work? The majority of the cost was already sunk. It cost little to drop one on Hiroshima. If it worked, great! If not, conventional warfare would continue, and further development of the bomb would continue as result the trinity test.

    Somehow I think that Obama in the place of Truman would have would found a way to screw up. Exactly how I leave to everyone's imagination.

    C.W.

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  2. MANY LIBS I GREW UP AROUND ARGUED THAT TRUMAN ANS THE USA SHOULD HAVE INVITED THE JAPS OUT TO A DESRTED ISLAND AND GIVEN THEM A DEMO - AND THAT THE JAPS WOULD HAVE SURRENDERED AND WITHOUT THE "HORROR" OF HIROSHIMA.

    PROOF THY ARE WRONG IS THE FACT THAT AFTER BOMBING HIROSHIMA THE JAPS STILL DIDN'T SURRENDER UNTIL NAGASAKI WAS BOMBED.

    ALSO: I HAVE READ THE NUKING OF HIROSHIMA AND NAGASAKI SAVED 20 MILLION JAPANESE LIVES - AS THEY WOULD HAVE DEFENDED THE ISLAND TO THEIR DEATHS.

    TOO BAD HOPKINS AND HISS AND THE OTHER STALINSTS SPIES PREVENTED US FROM TOPPLING THE USSR IN 1945.



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  3. I have to agree, the decision Truman made was one that has reverberated through the years. Many have complained about it and tried to discount the estimates of casualties to downplay its importance but it remains a turning point in history.
    If someone as squishy as Obama were put in that position he'd still be debating what to do. (I exaggerate, by this time he would be out of office and off the hook.)
    I disagree with much of Truman's philosophy but at least the man had the cajones to make decisions and stand by them.

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  4. At least the two nukes were "quick"

    Many other Japanese cities were given the "Dresden" treatment, not just for one night, but for weeks and months. Firestorms in cities and suburbs built primarily from wood are terrible to contemplate.

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  5. My grandfather was in the same unit as Truman in the First World War. (Truman was Captain of a French 75 artillery battery and my grandfather was a private in another) Truman was in the initial stages of the Meuse-Argonne battle in France at the end of September 1918. The end of the war was less than 6 weeks away but the Germans fought fiercely for each yard of ground. The US artillery was closely following the infantry and was always at risk of being cut off or overrun. Truman was very proud of not losing a man in his command. As President he was presented with a situation that closely mirrored the last days of WWI. There was no way he was going to risk US troops just to avoid using the A Bomb.

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  6. I have been amazed how people have been confused or misguided about the wisdom of ending WWII with two bombs. I first witnessed it head on in a high school history class. I was tasked with making the case for using the BOMB. My teacher was clearly against. I gave all the usual arguments like the Japanese fought suicidally and to the last man. Civilians killed themselves rather than being taken prisoner. Then I got to my last point. If the US invaded Japan, how many of you, my classmates would be here today? All of us were second or third born from WWII vets. Our streets were lined with vets, many combat vets. I asked would their fathers be around if they had to fight the length of Japan? If your fathers weren't around, then you wouldn't be here questioning their fathers generations big decision.

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  7. Thanks for the history on Truman.

    Two questions-
    1. what do you think of the information that was reported at the time of the courageous decision to go after Obama in re: he'd been vacillating for 3 weeks, and finally went ahead having gotten a green light from Valery Jarrett.

    2. What do your contacts at State feel about the wag-the-dog nature of the current AQ scare and continent wide indefinite embassy shut-down.

    Is it Obama's version of the tomahawk strike on baby milk factory?

    http://news.investors.com/ibd-editorials/080613-666600-obamas-unprecedented-embassy-closings-smell-fishy.htm?p=2

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  8. Harrumph sir,
    A Laurel and Hardy handshake and welcome back.

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  9. I know this is off topic, but I couldn't resist this. Can you feel the love?
    http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-2Oy_5-HR2kg/UgJ2eq2qifI/AAAAAAABioc/o--QbpsQ8UQ/s1600/988268_627959857237464_1648540975_n.jpg

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  10. Dad was trained as a coxswain (the guy that steers) on a landing craft in the Pacific. He would've been in the invasion of Japan and I very well might not be here had that invasion gone off.

    Thank God for the Bomb and an American president with the guts to use it.

    Instead, he putted around Tokyo Bay after the surrender, his landing craft playing an important part as a water taxi and facilitating the trade of British naval rum for American naval ice cream.

    MC

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  11. I believe Biden was speaking in terms of comparison to OTHER Obama decisions.

    The most important usually being to have the Wagyu beef or the lobster for dinner. Or, in a bold streak of brilliance, so common in this exceptional President, to have BOTH.

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  12. Diplomad, as somebody who has had Actual Contact with career politicians, I just have to know: Are they REALLY as stupid as they appear to be, or do they think that we are?

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  13. Truman actually cared for his country and the people that he represented. Unfortunately his type of politics (working for the best interests of the country) places far to right of 97% of our elected senators and representatives.
    As for the current occupant of the White House he would not be capable to serve as a shoeshine boy in front of Truman & Jacobson Harry's menswear store.

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  14. I was born the day Truman was elected President. Very proud even though the tangential event obviously meaningless.
    Backbone in post WWII Presidents has been and is in very short supply.
    Give em hell Harry!

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  15. I think that using the atomic bomb to end WW2 in the Pacific was the reason why there has not been a WW3. The world saw the horror resulting from a nuclear attack and more importantly, the USA showed the world that American leadership would use the atomic bomb if necessary. That was the reason the Soviet Union backed down in the Cuban Missile Crisis and never invaded Western Europe or attempted a missile/bomber strike on North America.

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  16. This was back when Democrats still had a pair and a modicum of BRAINS!!!

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  17. The Japanese bought the Atom Bombs with their savagery in the Phillipines, the Marianas, Iwo Jima and Okinawa.

    Their murderous ramages, refusal to surrender , refusal stop suicidal killing.. all of it combined to doom the Yamato people. Couple this with the refusal to accept the US could and did build more lethal and better weapons in greater numbers than most of the Japanese General Staff could remotely imagine.

    Hiroshima and Nagasaki were blessings compared to fire bombings and every terrible tool we had ready for them . I believe the few rational men around the Emperor understood all of this gave him the out he needed to cry no mas .

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    Replies
    1. It's also forgetten that the US fed the Japanese people the winter of 1945 -- they literally had no food to feed their populace. Had the war dragged on, 10 or 20 million people would have starved to death.

      Delete
  18. Your voice of reason and experience will be deeply missed. Good luck in your endeavors.

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  19. Retiring can be dangerous. My wife did it 2 years ago and within 3 months was diagnosed with a large blood clot in her leg. It took months for her to recover. I was going to retire a while back but found I had cancer. I have been given a "clean bill" as of last April and NOW I will retire.

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  20. Two questions.
    Killing of civilians is prohibited by the Hague Convention of war on land. Is not the nuclear attack against the convention?

    Does not it set a dangerous precedent in future conflicts? If some country says that they drop H bombs in US cities to save millions of lives of their soldiers, what would you say? Is it OK to kill US citizens if they can save the lives of their countrymen?

    It sounds to me “we are right and they are wrong so everything is justified.”

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  21. The Convention was not in effect at that time. It was the huge slaughter of WWII, wars which WE did not start, that inspired the new Hague Convention. Second, the bombs saved a couple of millions of American lives and probably TWENTY millions of Japanese lives.

    Stick around Anon. You might learn a thing or two.

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    Replies
    1. The convention in question is the Hague Convention of 1899 and 1907, which should not be confused with the Geneva Convention of 1949, which you are taking about.

      How can you kill 20 mil Japanese when there were only 3 mil Japanese soldiers? The answer is by mainly killing Japanese civilians, which is prohibited by international law. That number is rather awkward.

      There are potentially number of ways to justify the A bomb attack. But if you choose a poor justification, that will be a precedent and could be applied against you in future.

      Delete
    2. You have your facts wrong. While the killing of civilians is prohibited, the destruction of military facilities, including factories producing military equipment is not. Thus executing civilians as the Nazis and Japanese did is illegal, but destroying a factory and the people who work in it, is not.

      It was also expected by the Japanese government that if the homeland was invaded EVERY able man, woman, and child would take up arms against the invaders. Which wouldn't make them soldiers, but would make them civilians engaged in armed conflict in time of war. Which under the Geneva Conventions is illegal and people engaging therein are subject to summary execution.

      I'd guess that you went to an Ivy League school.

      Delete
  22. I disclaim any guarantee as to the accuracy of this entry, but was curious myself why Hiroshima was chosen:

    http://wiki.answers.com/Q/Why_did_the_US_choose_Hiroshima_as_the_first_target_for_the_atomic_bomb

    ReplyDelete