President Harry Truman, said on Aug. 6, 1945, “Sixteen hours ago an American airplane dropped one bomb on Hiroshima, an important Japanese Army base. … That was because we wished this first attack to avoid, insofar as possible, the killing of civilians.” In fact, the city of 350,000 had practically no military value at all and the target was the city, not the base three kilometers away. With a callous disregard for human life Hiroshima was specifically selected as a target with an environment likely to cause the most damaging effects and indiscriminately kill or injure the greatest possible number. Many of its buildings were composed of paper, wood and straw. Mock-up structures built from similar materials had earlier been erected in the Utah desert for testing incendiary potential. Also, Hiroshima had been spared any previous aerial bombardment so that the precise effects of the explosion could be determined. The bomb was dropped at 8.15 am, without prior warning. In the rush hour when the maximum number of people were exposed.
One of the most commonly accepted beliefs is that, horrific though it was, the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki saved millions of lives by bringing about a swift end to the war without the need of a bloody invasion. The US Strategic Bombing Survey by Brigadier-General Bonnie Feller concluded:
“Certainly before 31 December 1945 and in all probability before 1 November 1945, Japan would have surrendered even if the atomic bomb had not been dropped, even if Russia had not entered the war, and even if no invasion had been planned or contemplated.”
The estimates of projected invasion casualties – ranging from “hundreds of thousands” to “millions” – were post-war exaggerations designed to contribute to the public justification for the dropping of the bombs. Major General Curtis E. LeMay expressed the truth a few weeks after surrender of the Japanese. “The atomic bomb,” he stated, “had nothing to do with the end of the war”. He was not alone in his opinion.
Admiral William Leahy, the wartime Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, wrote in 1950, “It is my opinion that the use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material success in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender….”
President Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, said in his memoirs he believed “that Japan was already defeated and that dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary.”
Was it necessary to drop the bomb? The decision to do this flowed from two words: ‘Unconditional Surrender’. After the dropping of the bomb, the Allies gave the undertaking not to abolish the Imperial system in Japan which the Japanese leaders had been haggling for in their peace offers. The Japanese condition if it had been accepted would almost certainly have brought about Japan’s surrender without the bomb being dropped at all. American leaders knew well in advance that the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was not required to bring about Japan’s surrender.
Socialists argue that it is senseless to imagine that the problem of war will be solved by advocating the banning of this or that weapon, or even of all weapons. It is not just a matter of 'Ban the Bomb'; but to end all wars and that means ending the economic rivalries between national ruling classes that cause them. Capitalism promotes—nay, it encourages—the situations that result in war. Let us make our position quite clear. We have no objection to the banning of nuclear weapons. But we do have an objection to people getting killed by other methods. The saturation bombing of Hamburg, Dresden and Tokyo, generating the new military tactic of fire-storms. We can't realistically comprehend the horror when, in one night alone, 100,000 died in a 1000-bomber raid on Dresden. And those who substitute “more humanitarian” alternatives to war should be minded that 500,000 children of Iraq whose young lives were taken by the consequences of twelve years of crippling sanctions that kept a despot in power and a people too dispirited to revolt.
At the end of it all, these desperate, separate cries to end this or that terrible evil in the world all add up to the cry to end capitalism.