© The Japan Times
Tokyo, Japan
October 25, 1998

Troubling memories of the past

          I am troubled by some of the stories in the press recently about the atomic bombings of Japan at the end of World War II, and I worry that the further World War II fades into the mist of history, the more the voices that portray Japan as a victim of that war and the United States as a "war criminal" will drown out the truth.
          Though the U.S. is often looked at as a villain for using nuclear weapons, Japan and Germany were also trying to develop nuclear weapons during the war – to use against the U.S. For better or worse, the U.S. won that nuclear-weapons race.
          Before an atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, the Japanese were clearly warned by the U.S. that if they did not stop fighting the war Japan was liable to face complete destruction. Rather than surrendering though, an army of 28 million Japanese was training to stop an allied invasion with nothing but bamboo spears.
          Many people suggest the U.S. should have blockaded Japan instead of using nuclear weapons, but many Japanese were already starving at the time, and a blockade would have only caused more starvation.
          Despite the fact that a good argument can be made for the U.S. using nuclear weapons on Japan, Americans tend to be quick to express remorse about the atomic bombings (as well as the internment of Japanese Americans during the war). The Japanese, however, tend to cover up their responsibility for atrocities such as the Rape of Nanking and the Bataan Death March. With the foreign apologists for Japanese aggression and critics of U.S. bombing to stop it growing stronger in recent years, Japan's denial of reality is becoming more and more contagious.
          I am worried about how future generations will examine the past.

Don MacLaren

© The Japan Times
Tokyo, Japan
November 22, 1998

Better to bomb than blockade

          It is disturbing that Todd Strickland suggests that blockading Japan and waiting for Japanese to starve to death would have been the right course to take in August 1945. Forcing millions of civilians to starve to death was something the Japanese had already done in China and Southeast Asia, but even if the starving were their own citizens it's unlikely that Japan's leaders would have taken responsibility.
​          Japan's faceless "leaders" were so factionalized that no one had been tasked with the power necessary to end the war. Though one faction was considering surrender before Hiroshima, another, more powerful faction was planning to fight until every last Japanese man, woman and child had dropped dead.
​          It is common knowledge the United States was preparing an invasion of Kyushu and the Kanto plain, while the Soviets had designs on Hokkaido and Northern Honshu. Japan was running out of food, but was determined to fight to the end, and its military had plenty of hardware left to do so. The 28 million Japanese civilians training to defend the shores with nothing but bamboo spears were to be used as cannon fodder and would have been slaughtered.
​          Strickland ends his letter by stating he is worried about how the present generation denies the past. If denial is the issue we must examine Japan's responsibility for the events in the war leading up to the atomic bombings, for it is here you will encounter denial and obfuscation every step of the way. The fact is that the Japanese killed more than 15 million people from 1937 to 1945.
​          War is hell, and given the terrain, U.S. President Harry Truman did not have the option of choosing between right and wrong. Rather, he was forced to choose between two evils. He chose the lesser when he made the decision to drop atomic bombs on Japan.

Don MacLaren

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