Apologize for Hiroshima?


The State Department won’t do it:

Not all Japanese survivors of the bombing want an apology, of course — but some do, including the secretary-general of a victims’ association. Quote: “We welcome the visit. But without an apology, it is difficult for us. We aren’t asking for reparations. We simply want the U.S. to apologize and get rid of its nuclear arsenal.” 

Because, after all, nothing says I’m sorry like unilateral disarmament. I confess the purpose escapes me of an official apology for the atom bombing of Japan. “We’re sorry we didn’t follow through with plans for a massively bloody and protracted invasion of Japan, accompanied, as no doubt it would be, by conventional carpet bombings and city-wide firestorms.” Hmm. “We’re sorry that you proved so unwilling to surrender Iwo Jima and Okinawa that we thought twice about how to win the war of aggression that you started against us.” Could enlist the support of our customer service industry? “We’re sorry that you feel that way.” Atomic warfare is obviously horrific, and we should all be very pleased that Hiroshima and Nagasaki were the last of it. But apologies mean the guilty party should’ve done something else, because that something else would have been better for everyone. The absurdity of turning the end of the Second World War into a situation that demands an apology is only underscored by the aggrieved gentleman’s own belief that an apology is useless to him without nuclear disarmament.

No, rather than getting ensnared in the politics of apology theater, we’re better off pondering this remarkable episode of This Is Your Life.

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  1. Profile Photo Member

    I have gone through this quite a few times as a college student. Its already flagrantly obvious how many additional lives would have been lost if the American military engaged the Japanese homeland directly. Many opponents of the use of nuclear weapons claim that the Japanese were willing to surrender long before Hiroshima and Nagasaki. However, I recall the military wing of Hirohito’s clique clamouring to continue waging war against both the U.S. and the Soviet Union even after Nagasaki and the Red Army invasion.

    • #1
  2. Profile Photo Member

    When did this modern mania for group apology begin? It has seen a particular flourishing with this bowing president who abases himself for sins only he and his left wing cohort perceive, but I have the sense it is a fairly recent outgrowth of political correctness punctilio. If I am wrong, please accept my kowtow.

    • #2
  3. Profile Photo Inactive

    Living in Japan, this is a delicate subject for me. I, of course, believe the bombs saved lives, but japanese tend to be an introverted people and all they can see now is their own suffering, not the suffering of others. No amount of reasoning can change that. In a few more years all the survivors will be gone. Best to keep quiet.

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  4. Profile Photo Podcaster
    outstripp: …Japanese tend to be an introverted people and all they can see now is their own suffering, not the suffering of others.

    Is introverted used here as selfish? And isn’t that the “quality” that got them in trouble in the first place?

    • #4
  5. Profile Photo Inactive

    The Japanese needn’t be happy about Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but considering America’s alternative strategy, waiting in the wings, they should accept that it was the least bad thing that was going to happen to them.

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  6. Profile Photo Contributor

    Apologize for Hiroshima? For me, James, that one requires no consideration or reflection whatsoever. The answer is “no”–a visceral and adamant “no.”

    My father, who participated in the battle of Okinawa on a Coast Guard cutter, felt certain reservations about the Second World War, particularly, I sensed, about the racism toward the Japanese that he witnessed. Yet he always stated it as a simple fact–a matter so obvious that it was self-evident, requiring no defense or elaboration–that, by finally forcing the Japanese to surrender, making an American invasion of the home islands unnecessary, the dropping of the atomic bomb had saved his life.

    Apologize for saving the lives of untold thousands of Americans–including my that of my own father?

    As I say, the answer is “no.”

    • #6
  7. Profile Photo Member

    I recall reading that one of the plans for invading the Home Islands involved not only a massive invasion force landing at several beachheads, but the use of a number of atomic bombs to soften up the defenders. I can’t recall the exact number, but it was greater than 5 and less, I believe, than a dozen.

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  8. Profile Photo Member

    Ah, here it is. Google be praised! The bit I remember is supported by a quote from General George Marshall in a book entitled, George C. Marshall: Interviews and Reminiscences for Forrest C. Pogue. Here’s how he had planned to use the atomic bombs we had.

    “There were three corps to come in there [to invade Japan], as I recall. …there were to be three bombs for each corps that was landing. One or two, but probably one, as a preliminary, then this landing, then another one further inland against the immediate supports, and then the third against any troops that might try to come through the mountains from up on the Inland Sea.”

    He wanted us to stop testing the bombs because he was afraid we’d use up what we had before they were needed to support the invasion.

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  9. Profile Photo Podcaster

    Two points. First, in my GOP stronghold of a home, the one Democrat we kids were never allowed to criticize was Harry Truman. Dad served on a DE in the Atlantic Theater of Operations and was a month out from being redeployed to the Pacific. Harry was alright by him.

    Second, when my daughter was in elementary school she was assigned a book that prompted her to ask me why we hated little girls and gave them cancer by nuking Japan. (Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes by Eleanor Coerr) Needless to say, by the time I got done my daughter, her teacher and her principal all got an earful from me about Operation Downfall.

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  10. Profile Photo Member

    The Japanese have been in denial since the end of the war. They see themselves as victims, do not accept any responsibility for the war or the actions of their soldiers. LIke David Kube above, I am waiting to hear the Japanese formally apologize to the Chinese for their actions, for the rape and slaughter of, perhaps, millions. We never really know how many were murdered by the Japanese during their invasion and occupation.

    Right along with Peter Robinson I say an unequivocal NO! and NO! again.

    • #10
  11. Profile Photo Contributor

    The Second World War, Winston S. Churchill: “We had contemplated the desperate resistance of the Japanese fighting to the death with Samurai devotion, not only in pitched battles, but in every cave and dugout. I had in mind the spectacle of Okinawa island, where many thousands of Japanese, rather than surrender, had drawn up in line and destroyed themselves by hand-grenades after their leaders had solemnly performed the rite of hara-kiri. To quell the Japanese resistance man by man and conquer the country yard by yard might well require the loss of a million American lives and half that number of British – or more if we could get them there: for we were resolved to share the agony. Now all this nightmare picture had vanished. In its place was the vision –fair and bright indeed it seemed—of the end of the whole war in one two violent shocks. I thought immediately myself of how the Japanese people, whose courage I had always admired, might find in the apparition of this almost supernatural weapon an excuse which would save their honour and release them from their obligation of being killed to the last fighting man.”

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  12. Profile Photo Contributor

    Churchill. Six decades later, still incomparable–and still right.

    • #12
  13. Profile Photo Inactive

    Perhaps we should ask the Koreans, Chinese, Allies servicemen, and others who were treated as subhuman, experimented on, raped, and used as slaves. They are still awaiting an apology from Japan.

    I remember seeing an interview with a Japanese soldier in Okinawa who was ordered to murder his own parents rather than surrender. The grief in his eyes as he told of smashing a large rock against his own mother’s head.

    The terrible truth is that the atomic bombs saved lifes on both sides, even at the cost of those who died at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

    • #13
  14. Profile Photo Contributor

    @teafortillerman, aka Joseph Bingham, seeks my thoughts on this piece, which includes these lines:

    How are the lives of innocent Japanese and German women, children, sick, elderly, and non-military personnel to be weighed against the lives of Allied fighters in such a way as to make clear that saving a certain number of Allied lives was “better” all things considered than killing a much larger number of enemy civilians? The impossibility of such a calculation, and the dignity of each human being, as a free and rational creature, seem together to be at the root of the traditional injunction never intentionally to kill the innocent. Meanwhile, the abandonment of this injunction seems to be at the root of the philosophical and cultural move in the direction which Anscombe called consequentialism.

    The Allied bombings were, therefore, by the standards of traditional, non-consequentialist morality, utterly wrong and intrinsically unjustifiable. And this great moral evil has itself had consequences, some of which it is salutary to note now, more than half a century later.

    The error here is that our brutal destruction of civilian lives was not meant to save our own so much as to make us win. [1/2]

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  15. Profile Photo Contributor

    Among powers that were defeated, Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan were perhaps the two most difficult to defeat in world history. The allies very nearly did not at all defeat them. And it is reasonable to believe that the only way to defeat them was to crush them utterly. That is an ugly, inhuman business, crushing a whole people utterly. But that was the option (so long, in Germany, at any rate, as Hitler’s regime remained in power). And it is also reasonable to have believed that these two powers, given the historically unprecedented sweep and magnitude of their combined barbarism, were not fit to remain on earth, as a conditional surrender would have allowed them to do.

    Given these judgments, and the tremendous power of our adversaries, what sort of war could be waged? Not one that met the moral standard of just war set out above. Our consolation for accepting this outcome, I think, is that we did not take such a bloody road simply because we counted our own lives as more real, in some ultimate way, than those of our enemies. [2/2]

    • #15
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