We recently marked the 65th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima. While those who support such seminal actions often cite casualty avoidance, the casualties extrapolated from the losses at Okinawa could vastly understate the number of people who actually would have died had the United States not acted when it did (“Remembering a great and terrible day,” Commentary, Friday).
Besides kamikazes, redeployed Kwantung divisions from China and bamboo-spear-wielding civilians, the allies faced biological warfare in Japan. Occupation searchers uncovered large stockpiles of viruses, spirochetes and fungus spores throughout the rural parts of the country. These pathogens already had been tested on Chinese civilians.
Some say Japan was in the process of surrendering when the Enola Gay released “Little Boy” over Hiroshima, but Japanese negotiation initiatives proved too vacuous to make dropping the atomic bombs unnecessary. Only after Emperor Hirohito said he would conclude the war and transform the nation did Japan contact Swiss and Swedish foreign offices to commence negotiations with allied belligerents.
Detractors say the bombs accomplished little. According to them, President Truman’s decree of unconditional surrender was compromised away when he allowed Japan to keep its emperor. However, imperial Japan abandoned its heritage by accepting the Potsdam Declaration provisions, which demanded that the emperor’s and government’s authority be subject to the supreme Allied commander. The Japanese people’s free expression then determined ultimate government, eradicating multimillennial imperial characteristics.