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Seventy years ago, the B-29 Enola Gay, piloted by Paul Tibbets, Jr., dropped an atomic bomb, Little Boy, on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. The blast and ensuing radiation killed an estimated 150,000 people. Though the devastation from the bombing was astounding, it did not bring American’s war with Japan or World War II to an immediate end. Three days later, the United States dropped another atomic bomb, Fat Man, on Nagasaki, and the Empire of Japan’s leaders finally capitulated.


Many mainstream media organizations, such as the New York Times, clearly focus their remembrance of the occasion on those who died in the blast, or peddle a generally anti-nuke line. In this narrative, the Japanese were an aggrieved people who suffered at the hands of a cruel and remorseless United States.


Although there are constant attempts to condemn the bombings as unnecessary, Americans at the time were widely supportive of their use, and tens, if not hundreds of thousands of lives were saved by avoiding an invasion of the Japanese homeland.


Historian Ronald H. Spector wrote in Eagle Against the Sun: The American War with Japan about the plan to invade the island nation and its potentially cataclysmic levels of casualties. In preparation for the invasion of Japan, codenamed “Downfall,” American military planners attempted to estimate the cost of the assault and the long battle to take the islands of Japan based on the recent bloodbaths in Okinawa and Iwo Jima. Specter noted that in a briefing with President Harry Truman, the Joint Chiefs of Staff presented a plan to invade the Japanese home island of Kyushu. Based on the casualty rate from Okinawa—which was around 35 percent—and the nearly million men that would be required for such an assault, the United States could reasonable expect “268,000 dead and wounded.” These would just be the initial casualties.


Though the most recent battle over Okinawa lead to the death of almost every Japanese soldier fighting on the island, it “had the paradoxical effect of discouraging the Americans while inspiring the Japanese.” The Japanese homeland was much easier to defend, and its defenders would be just as, if not more, fanatical.


Spector concluded, “To the infantryman and marines preparing for the assault on Japan, to the sailors who had undergone the weeks of Kamikaze attacks off Okinawa, the atomic bombs seemed not the first chapter of a catastrophe for mankind, the dawn of a new age of terror, the first gun of the cold war but, in Churchill’s words, a ‘miracle of deliverance.’”



The bomb ended the old Japan and allowed a new one to rise from the ashes. The cost was high, but not using it would have been higher.

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