This December 7th will mark the 75th Anniversary of Pearl Harbor. Wow, has it been that long already? (not as if I was conceived back in 1941)
Even though World War II occurred three to four generations ago, there are a lot of old grievances that have lingered since then. Which is hardly surprising considering for what it was -- a global war. Something that big fought amongst so many nations on such a destructive scale.... nothing is going to be easily forgotten. Nor should it.
But when it comes to grudges between the peoples of the world.... it's like... war is war. No one is innocent. Even the "good guys" had to do ugly things back then. Let's just leave the past in the past. Let's not forget or ignore it, but let's work together to move forward towards a better future.
Still, you hear about the grudges, and old grievances. All have valid points, but there's always the other side of the story.
I remember the last time I visited Pearl Harbor.... there was this young lady in the tour group. I overheard her saying, "Everyone's talking about how Americans were the victims are Pearl Harbor. Well, how about Hiroshima and Nagasaki? What about the Japanese who suffered from the A-bombs?"
In my head, I was thinking the Pearl was neither the time nor place to bring that up, but kept my mouth shut.
First off, the Americans who died at the Pearl had absolutely nothing to do with Hiroshima and Nagasaki, for the obvious reason -- the Atomic bombs were dropped a good 2-and-a-half years AFTER Pearl Harbor. The Japanese attacked us first, so we declared war on them (the whole Pearl Harbor conspiracy theory, which I overall disagree with, deserves its own blog entry).
At the same time, I'm not condemning all Japanese for their preemptive attack on Pearl Harbor. Most notablly, Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto who was the architect/master planner behind the attack. To sum it up, he didn't want to wage war with the United States. He also was against Imperial Japan's war with China and Japan's alliance with Nazi Germany. But Yamamoto was universally respected by those he commanded in the Navy, and was still loyal to The Emperor. So he was, what I would say, a reluctanct warrior; he didn't want to wage war, but out of devotion to his Emperor and his country, he had no choice. Yamamoto was hoping -- but not expecting -- that a conflict with the United States would be swift and not prolonged.
Actually, that's a very similar line of thinking the American leadership had when they dropped the Atomic bombs in 1945: they didn't want to prolong the war and end it as quickly as possible.
Which brings us to Hiroshima and Nagasaki...
As for the Atomic bombs being dropped on Japan... that's also super controversial. Another old grievance from World War II that still exists today. I'm no expert on the subject, so I could be wrong. But from what I read, Imperial Japan and her citizens were prepared to fight to the end. And they were willing to take as many Allied troops' lives (mainly Americans) with them as possible. The more cornered and wounded someone is, the harder they fight back.
I've heard that Operation Downfall (the US code name for the invasion of Japan) is the greatest battle in history NEVER fought. I believe that. Casualty predictions vary, but were all projected to be extremely high... for both the Americans AND the Japanese. Perhaps even in the millions. After all, it wouldn't just be the US military vs Japan's military... but also Japan's citizens as well. All of this was based on the "Pacific Experience", from what the Americans learned from fighting the determined Japanese in bloody battles such as Guadacanal, Saipan, Peleliu, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa. So they were expecting more of the same -- and perhaps even worse -- when they were planning Downfall.
And to give a faint idea of how vast and complex Operation Downfall was going to be, the Allied plan of invading Japan is depicted below:
In my personal opinion, I believe that Operation Downfall would have resulted in many more deaths (including Japanese) than from the # of people that died from the Atomic bombs; this include those who died in the aftermath as well. And from the American standpoint, I've never heard or read an old World War II combat veteran saying that they wanted to land & fight Japan... because that would mean certain death for them. Just how I've never heard or read any American veteran saying they wanted to get into the ultimate street fight with Nazi Germany for the Battle of Berlin (it would be the Russions who would get that dubious honor). This isn't to say that the American combat vets rejoiced at the thought of Japanese civilians getting bombed, but that they didn't want to die themselves by invading Japan.
Thus, I believe President Truman was correct to use the Atomic bombs... but that doesn't make me happy to say that. I think about all the Japanese civilians -- including women, children, and the elderly -- that perished and suffered from the Atomic bombs.... let's just say that I understand the point of view of those who opposed the bombings, even if I unhappily disagree with them. Pictures like the one below from the Atomic bombs' aftermath are heart-crushing:
Of course, those from "the other side" will say that the Japanese deserved to get bombed after what they did in the Rape of Nanking, the Bataan Death March, waging chemical warfare in China, and other atrocities they committed during the war. I understand those grievances as well.
Whether the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki truly deserved to get bombed by "Little Boy" and "Fat Man" (the codenames for the atomic bombs, respectively), I can't say.
But what I CAN say for certain is that both sides suffered horribly. Again, World War II was a GLOBAL WAR.
Let's hope nothing like it ever happens again.
And that includes the use of nuclear weapons.