Everybody in Britain knows something of the events 70 years ago when a Boeing B-29 Superfortress bomber, with the name Enola Gay and piloted by Colonel Paul Tibbets, dropped the first atom bomb (code named ‘Little Boy’) on the Japanese city of Hiroshima on 6 August. This was followed 3 days later by the dropping of another atom bomb, ‘Fat-man’, on Nagasaki, after smoke from conventional bombing the previous day obscured the primary target Kokura. Virtually every Briton who attended school from 1945 to the present day has had it drummed into their head that this bombing was a necessary evil that saved hundreds of thousands of lives of allied troops. This ‘popular’ version of history written by the victors is, however, as untrue as it is well known.
US President Truman assigned the U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey group to report on the atomic air attacks on Japan, and the report they made in July of 1946 makes extremely interesting reading. The conclusion of this report unsurprisingly supports the use of the atomic weapons but it also contains ‘odd’ sentences such as the one at the bottom of page 26 where it says; ” Based on a detailed investigation of all the facts and supported by the testimony of the surviving Japanese leaders involved, it is the Survey’s opinion that certainly prior to 31 December 1945 and in all probability prior to 1 November 1945, Japan would have surrendered even if the atomic bombs had not been dropped, even if Russia had not entered the war, and even if no invasion had been planned or contemplated .”
Hindsight is a wonderful thing of course, but wasn’t US military knowledge and experience at the time pushing to take the ‘safe’ option, the route which guaranteed success with the least expenditure of Allied soldiers’ lives regardless of enemy civilian casualties? Dwight Eisenhower – then Supreme Commander of all Allied Forces (later President) and the officer who created most of America’s WWII military plans for Europe and Japan – said on 11 November 1963 in an interview with Newsweek : “The Japanese were ready to surrender and it wasn’t necessary to hit them with that awful thing.” He continued: “In [July] 1945… Secretary of War Stimson, visiting my headquarters in Germany, informed me that our government was preparing to drop an atomic bomb on Japan. I was one of those who felt that there were a number of cogent reasons to question the wisdom of such an act. …the Secretary, upon giving me the news of the successful bomb test in New Mexico, and of the plan for using it, asked for my reaction, apparently expecting a vigorous assent. During his recitation of the relevant facts, 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 Secretary was deeply perturbed by my attitude….”
What about other senior US military officers though? Admiral William Leahy – the highest ranking member of the U.S. military from 1942 until retiring in 1949, who was the first de facto Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff wrote: ” It is my opinion that the use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender because of the effective sea blockade and the successful bombing with conventional weapons.
“The lethal possibilities of atomic warfare in the future are frightening. My own feeling was that in being the first to use it, we had adopted an ethical standard common to the barbarians of the Dark Ages. I was not taught to make war in that fashion, and wars cannot be won by destroying women and children .”
While General Douglas MacArthur, certainly not known for squeamishness or reluctance to shed blood, has also written that he saw no military justification for the dropping of the bomb. “The war might have ended weeks earlier“, he said, ” If the United States had agreed, as it later did anyway, to the retention of the institution of the emperor.”
Many other US and British military senior officers of the time have since 1945 recorded in print their misgivings or serious disagreement with the use of the bomb at all, or at least against wholly civilian targets. It may well be that much of these writings are just come from people seeing the enormity of the crime that was perpetuated against humanity with the dropping of those bombs and seeking to distance themselves from it after the fact. That does not alter the simple facts: that the Japanese people in 1945 had no stomach for continuing the war; the military and political leaders could no longer sustain the war effort and were looking for ways out; and that the Japanese soldiers, once claimed to be near invincible (although this was never the case) and who would, according to the legend built up by easily defeated enemies, die rather than surrender, were now throwing their weapons away and surrendering in overwhelming numbers. Add to this the fact that the mighty Soviet Red Army had, with the destruction of the fascist power in Germany, now entered this theatre of the war and were overrunning the Japanese military at lightning speed.
This last point is the most important one to consider when looking at the question of why the atomic bombs were used by the US. Only when you look at the question in this way can you see that the bombs on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki at a human cost of over 200,000 lives were not about ending the Second World War but about beginning the Cold War against the USSR which was planned by the US ruling class to lead very shortly to a very real ‘hot’ war. The bombs were dropped to make sure (a) that Japan would surrender only to the US, leaving the Soviet Union out of the equation; (b) to issue a warning to the Soviet Union as to what would happen to her if she didn’t go along with American plans for world domination; and (c) to test this terrible weapon in real life conditions on people. It was mostly thanks to the very quick development of a Soviet bomb coupled with the initial high standing of the Soviet Union by the working masses in the imperialist countries and their war-weariness that the ‘war’ stayed ‘cold’.
The development of Soviet atomic know-how and weaponry startled and angered the US as it hampered their war plans and this anger was shown publicly in the cowardly state murder of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg.
The western imperialist powers didn’t stop planning for a war against the Soviet Union and the emerging socialist powers, such as China in 1948, and the tricks and lies used to try to spark a war were many including trying to bring economic chaos to the German Democratic Republic and even sending in spies and murderers to try to cause an uprising in East Berlin, invading Korea and using the flimsiest of lies re the Gulf of Tonkin to start a war in Vietnam. Imperialism, however, failed to develop these provocations into the new anti-communist world war that it wanted/needed to release raw materials, markets and peoples to their tender mercies since it was clear that socialist societies, even in early, far from perfect, phases, offer workers so much that they will tenaciously defend them.
In remembering this heinous massacre of civilians through the use of cruel and disgusting weapons 70 years ago we must not allow ourselves to be swayed by the voices who call on us to practice total non-violence and peace at any cost while leaving the imperialist powers to get on vampire-like with their draining of the life from the whole world through heartless and unceasing oppression in peacetime and evermore violent and costly wars for extending their domination. That is not learning from the tragedy of Hiroshima, it is setting us up to repeat the tragedy.
Many peoples in oppressed countries are already fighting back against the imperialist tormentors. It is high time that here in imperialist Britain we raise our fists against our own imperialists and their puppets and play our part in helping to batter this beast into oblivion. It is only with the establishment of socialism that our country will cease to be a cruel warmonger and become a staunch defender of peace.