Old ideas are like old shoes; they are comfortable and we hate to discard them. Metaphorically, however, the United States has been strutting around in worn-out combat boots since World War II. It’s time for papa to gamble on getting a new pair of shoes.
Beginning with the G-7 summit of the world’s largest economies in May, several high-level international government meetings offer opportunities for President Barack Obama and Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to discard old shoes and apologize for their nations’ atrocious actions in the war.
The failure of both countries to acknowledge their war-time atrocities, nuch less apologize for them has been a long-festering and highly unnecessary issue that contributes no amity among the nations involved.
For the United States, the too-long-delayed apology would be for dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, obvious crimes against humanity that amounted to war crimes. Resistance to doing so is based on a 70-year-old belief that the bombs ended the four-year-long war. They did not. At best, they were contributing factors.
For 70 years, the U.S. government has allowed to go unchallenged false claims it first proffered, including one that the bombs ended the war, saving half a million lives. Presumably, that many American soldiers would be lost in an invasion of the Japan homeland had the atomic bombs not worked.
On its face, the claim was preposterous. That’s more than double the 405,400 that actually did die in WWII, which itself was second only to the Civil War and its 750,000 lives lost as our costliest war. A more reasonable figure was the military’s estimate of 20,000, less than the Revolutionary War, more than the War of 1812.
Even that estimate was pooh-poohed within a year of the war when the U.S. military’s own review concluded the atomic bombs were of no military because Japan would have surrendered in another month or two anyhow. The island-based nation already had been under siege for nearly all of 1945, with essentially no maneuverability on water or in the air.
As recent as 1993, scholars reached the same conclusion, yet the claims justifying the a-bomb drops continue. Any doubts should have been put to rest by recent available transcripts of high-level meetings of Japan’s leaders, all the way up to Emperor Hirohito, who finally made the call to surrender in August.
Those transcripts and research into Japan’s history in the first half of the past century led to the conclusion in Tommy’s Wars: Paradise to Hell and Back that Japan surrendered because just minutes before midnight and the end of Aug. 8, 1945 in Moscow, the Soviets declared war on Japan.
Japan already was on its knees because of a month-long rain of U.S. bomb, including incendiary bombs that also are no military use except to kill civilians and demoralize the survivors.
At the Yalta Conference in February of that year, the three powers of the U.S.S.R, U.S. and Great Britain decided that within three months after Germany’s surrender, the Soviets, which had a neutrality agreement with Japan, would break it and declare war. Germany’s surrender came on May 8, starting the countdown to Aug. 8 just before midnight and about seven hours before the second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki.