Thursday, August 06, 2009

Atomic Bombing of Japan
Can Catholics say it was moral?

64 years ago today, we dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan. So to answer the above question, without a doubt, I say yes.

Here's some of my rationale;
1. In an invasion of the Home Islands, U.S. KIA estimates were approx 1,000,000.

2. In an invasion of the Home Islands, British Commonwealth KIA estimates were approx 1,000,000.

3. In an invasion of the Home Islands, Japanese civilian deaths from famine alone were estimated at approx 5,000,000.

4. During the invasions of Saipan and Okinawa, Japanese parents killed their children by the hundreds (some estimate thousands). Then the parents would commit suicide themselves. What would happen during an invasion of the Home Islands, where millions lived?

5. Hiroshima and Nagasaki were far from "innocent" targets. Both were valid military targets.

a. Hiroshima was slated to be the HQ for the Japanese defense on the Southern Front (Operation "Getsu-Go"; Japan's plans for defense of the home islands) when the Allies invaded (Operations Down Fall, Coronet and Olympic). Hiroshima was home base for 43,000 Japanese troops waiting to kill American, British, and Commonwealth troops.

b. Nagasaki was home to two major Mitsubishi arms factories.

c. Both cities were military transportation hubs.

d. And I don't buy this "it was an anti-Catholic plot to kill Japanese Catholics when we hit Nagasaki". Much like many of the German and Italian Catholics, Japanese Catholics had no problem whatsoever killing Yanks, Brits, Aussies, Kiwis, Canucks, etc, by the truckload all for the glory of the Empire.

6. Hiroshima also had thousands of soldiers stationed in and around the city. Hiroshima was also the HQ for the 2d Imperial Army. Again, making it a valid military target.

7. The entire nation of Japan was girding for armed combat. If you thought that the German Volkssturm units (little boys and old men who fought the Red Army to the death) were tough, wait until we met the Japanese Home Guard, bushido tradition and all. And yes, 9 year old little Japanese boys and girls were in training to charge American machine gun nests with sharpened bamboo spears. Don't kid yourself... they would have done it. And Allied troops would have had no choice but to mow them down by the tens, if not hundreds of thousands.

8. There was a slogan popular in Japan in the closing months of the war; "One hundred million heartbeats. One death". Hmmm, what did they mean by that? National Hari-Kiri or a National Fight To The Death.... or both?

9. If "the war was already over and Japan was ready to surrender" as the revisionists tell us... why did it take TWO atomic bombs to make Japan surrender?

10. Many within The Church point to #2314 of the CCC; "Every act of war directed to the indiscriminate destruction of whole cities or vast areas with their inhabitants is a crime against God and man, which merits firm and unequivocal condemnation."[109] A danger of modern warfare is that it provides the opportunity to those who possess modern scientific weapons especially atomic, biological, or chemical weapons - to commit such crimes." Notice the word "indiscriminate"? Taking out a valid military target is far from indiscriminate.
So, it's a fact that we killed 180,000 Japanese in the atomic bombings of Japan. Here's one I have for the revisionists.... would they have been happy if more than 2,000,000 Allied Servicemen died, along with most of the Japanese people?


Blogger PreVat2 said...

I can't agree more with you then I do today! I've been saying this for years!!!

I served in Japan twice (with the USMC). I do love that country, their traditions, their food (and as a young, single Marine....their women...but that's another story).

But I'll be damned if I'll EVER apologize for Truman's actions. In fact, the Japanese government has NEVER apologized for what they did to us, and to the entire Far East. Until that day comes...Go pound sand, Tojo!

Semper Fi

8:11 AM  
Blogger Adeodatus49 said...

This is a controversial subject that will always be controversial. All the what if's about casualties, the intentions of the militarist-dominated Japanese government regarding ending the war, the will of the Japanese people to fight on or to surrender, the role of the Russians, the "myth" of wanting to kill the Catholic Church of Japan, etc. We will never settle this.

I recommend an excellent history of the events leading up to the decision to drop both nukes:

Richard B. Frank, Downfall: the End of the Imperial Japanese Empire, New York: Random House, CY 1999

Frank's book starts with the Battle of Okinawa, presents the planning for Operations and then leads up to the "decision." His account of the battle of Okinawa is so horrible that it depressed me while reading it. Iwo Jima was bad enough. Okinawa was over the top. E.g., 80,000 Japanese and 12,000 Americans dead!

Frank also debunks much of the revisionists writing and opinions regarding the lack of necessity to employ the two weapons. For example, revisionist historians claim the Japanese gov't was trying to negotiate an end to the war via a back channel to Russia (then officially neutral) and other neutral countries. Not true! Individual Japanese officials tried this, but when discovered, were castigated severely by the Japanese Gov't. The militarists in the government also planned on losing up to 30 million Japanese civilians before they estimated that the Allies would be sick of the blood spilt and back off their unconditional surrender demands.

Finally, Okinawa was a microcosm of the yet to be fought main battle on Kiyushu (the So. Island) and then Honshu (where Tokyo is). Kiyusu is mountainous and an example of Okinawa on steriods.

Finally, Japan was starving. American submarines sunk all the inland water train ferries, the main means by which Japan would distribute throughout their islands. Japan did not have a robust road-based transportation system. Only railroads. Railroad infrastructure was next on the list of strategic targets to be bombed by the Allies. It is interesting to note that in the spring of 1946 Japan was on the brink of mass starvation with the imminent prospects of mass deaths. The American farmer came to Japan's rescue.

Now imagine this happening with an American blockade and land invasion operations commencing in the Spring of 1946, the earliest time the Allies would have been able to start an invasion of the Japanese mainland?

One can talk legitimately about morals. The opponents of the bombs have a legitimate point. Some of them were major American leaders (e.g., Sec'y of War Stimson, Adm Leahy, and Adm. Nimitz). Then again, there are the results that might have happened that didn't. Mass starvation was a virtual certainty had the war prolonged. And 30 million is a shocking, but not necessarily unrealistic number of Japanese deaths. Nobody knows for sure how many Americans would have died in an invasion of the mainland. 1,000,000 casualties is unprovable, but in my opinion not an unrealistic number.

Long note. Sorry. This is a complex subject. No easy solutions. I have barely discussed all the information in Frank
's book.

10:45 AM  
Blogger Adeodatus49 said...

Correction to my previous post.

Frank's book is about Operation Downfall and rebuts the revisionists, but does not present the Battle of Okinawa in detail. The book that so depressed me was principally about Okinawa, then discussed the Bomb:

Feifer, George (2001). The Battle of Okinawa: The Blood and the Bomb. The Lyons Press.

Do yourselves a favor and read both books! They really belong together.

One final correction: about 90,000 died at Hiroshima and 45,000 at Nagasaki for a death total in the 130 to 135,000 range, not 180,000. Nagasaki would have been higher, but the bomb was dropped about 2,000 yards off target in a geographical area that semi-contained the blast effects. Hiroshima's bomb was on target and stimulated a firestorm due to atmospheric and physical geographic conditions that were not extant at Nagasaki. Nagasaki's drop was inaccurate because of cloud cover (original target was Kokura, but cloud cover prevented a drop there first) with a resulting radar guided drop that was not very accurate. Hiroshima's drop was a visual drop.

This is discussed in the above books. I also took a course on this (among other nuclear-weapons related technical subjects) when I first started work at the Dept. of Energy in the early 1980s.

Nobody should treat this subject lightly regardless of where they fall on the "for-against" spectrum. You should have seen the extensive collection of I photos I saw at one of my classified courses.

11:09 AM  
Blogger Fr. Erik Richtsteig said...

Perhaps the target choices could have been more obviously military (perhaps the naval base at Yokohama), but I for one would not second guess Truman. However, I find it very curious that most of these people talk very little about the fire bombing of Dresden which was the deliberate targeting of civilians.

11:51 AM  
Blogger Dad29 said...

FWIW, W.E.B. Griffith also theorizes that dropping the bombs served as a helluva warning to the Russkis. Unlike FDR, Truman didn't trust Uncle Joe at ALL.

But I still think that the bombing killed a lot of people--a VERY lotta people--who were non-combatant.

1:41 PM  
Blogger Adeodatus49 said...

Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and Tokyo were military targets. Hiroshima was a military staging area for embarking troops overseas. I forget about Nagasaki (even though it was a secondary target). Perhaps because of its harbor. Tokyo "neighborhoods" were the disbursed centers for the manufacture of small arms and ammunition. Maybe some artillery and armored vehicles. I do not recall if the latter is correct. Too many years have gone by since I have read about some of this stuff.

In any case, the Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and Tokyo had the appearance of the type of bombing done to Dresden even considering that H and K each got it from one bomb. Tokyo's damage and huge death toll (approaching 100,000) was over two nights.

Richard Rhode's The Making of the Atomic Bomb discusses the above. His book was recommended reading in one of my training courses. I highly recommend this one. Long read, though!

By way of comparison, approximately 15 million Chinese died under the military occupation of Japan. Works out to 10,000 Chinese per day for the four years since Pearl Harbor. Of course the Japanese entered Manchuria in 1932 and in China pre-Pearl Harbor so the daily rate will be different. Maybe worse since I didn't count the Manchurians! I don't have those figures handy.

This also doesn't count other occupied countries where native peoples died in droves, much higher than even the deaths and death rates of allied POWs which were horrendous to say the least. But this story and book recommendations are for another post on some other day.

2:23 PM  
Blogger Nate Wildermuth said...

Did you know that many children jumped into the river running through Hiroshima in order to escape the heat of the blast? They were boiled alive.

There is nothing Catholic about your thinking, which is thoroughly utilitarian, and has led you to support the boiling of children - all for the unjust cause of "unconditional surrender".

4:27 PM  
Blogger Baron Korf said...

I think it is good to question the morality of this occasionally. Not to over turn it, but to affirm the gravity of the situation. As an isolated incident it does seem unjustified, but when we ask "How did it come to this" we can see the stark terror of war. It also impresses on us the importance of having good men in uniform and in office.

I often wonder how foolish our battles seem to God. Especially since it seems like we like to repeat our foolishness every century or so.

4:32 PM  
Blogger Vir Speluncae Catholicus said...

Should I bring up the Chinese children of Nanking or the Filipino children of Manila who were thrown into the air and caught on Japanese bayonets? No tears for them, Nate?

We can play tit-for-tat all day long, but you are ignoring one of the basics of my posting --- would it have been more "humane" to see millions of Japanese children either starve to death or killed by the hundreds of thousands in mindless banzai charges?

You thinking is knee-jerk, at best.

BTW, you'r "all for the unjust cause of "unconditional surrender", your logic dictates that a Japanese "conditional surrender" is just fine. To include the continuation of the Japanese occupation of large sections of China, all of Korea and Formosa, as well as most of SE Asia to include the Dutch East Indies.

Hmmm.... how many millions of innocent civilians did the Japanese murder in their occupied territories? But that's not a problem for you, 'eh Nate? It's all a matter of the mean ol' war-mongering Americans.

So much for your alleged Catholicism.


You're right. An awful lot of Japanese non-combatants were killed.

The fault for that is the Japanese governemnt when they stationed tens of thousands of troops in very close proximity of the civilian populace, as well as the arms factories, naval port facilities, etc.

Bottom line, the Japanese are to blame.

5:06 PM  
Blogger Vir Speluncae Catholicus said...

Santyana couldn't have been more right.

5:06 PM  
Blogger Nate Wildermuth said...


Where to start? Conditional surrender would obviously have to include protecting the rest of the world from Japanese aggression. This does not require bombing Japan to bits, as the conventional success of British and Soviet forces on the mainland show. The Japanese were in retreat everywhere. They would soon be restricted to their mainland, where a blockade could hem them in without starving them to death.

How is that you are so quick to condemn the Japanese for bayoneting babies, and so quick to justify Americans for boiling babies? Does it not make more sense to condemn both?

If you want to allege that I'm not Catholic, you can do that. I'm not going to allege that you're not Catholic - only that you're not *thinking* like a Catholic, but rather as a utilitarian. Catholics do not justify boiling babies for any reason - just as we do not justify aborting babies for any reason. It is always an intrinsic evil to intentionally and directly kill an innocent human being. The atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki did just that.

5:55 PM  
Blogger Vir Speluncae Catholicus said...

Let the dissection begin --

Conditional surrender would obviously have to include protecting the rest of the world from Japanese aggression. That's called "Japan surrendering unconditionally. I'm almost amazed at the ease in which you glaze over the millions of innocents killed by the Japanese. Almost.

This does not require bombing Japan to bits, as the conventional success of British and Soviet forces on the mainland show. "Mainland" what? Mainland Japan? Or do you mean the European mainland? If so, I think America had *just a little* to do with the victory over Nazism. You're anti-Americanism is getting clearer by the second. Oh, by the way.. we DID bomb Germany to bits. Do you make up history as you go along?

The Japanese were in retreat everywhere. And killing everyone in sight. It is a documented fact that the Japanese planned (and initially started) murdering the half million Allied POWs and Allied Civilian Internees. Should I even bring up the wholesale slaughter of the native populatins? Oh, sorry... you've already glazed over that.

and They would soon be restricted to their mainland, where a blockade could hem them in without starving them to death.
You really do make it up as you go along. A minimum of 5 million Japanese would have starved to death should a blockade have taken place. And what in the world makes you think the Japanese would have stayed on the mainland sheepishly? Appearantly you never got the Kamikaze memo. But then again... why should I think you would give a damn over Americans killed by Kamikaze attacks.

How is that you are so quick to condemn the Japanese for bayoneting babies, and so quick to justify Americans for boiling babies?
Easy... the Japanese did so for sport while the superiors smiled and looked the other way. America, on the other hand, went after military targets. If anyone is to be blamed for Japanese civilians getting killed... blame the Japanese govt for placing their military infrastructure in close proximity to the civilian populace.

Does it not make more sense to condemn both?

If you want to allege that I'm not Catholic, you can do that.
No shit. I just did.

I'm not going to allege that you're not Catholic - only that you're not *thinking* like a Catholic, but rather as a utilitarian.
Amazing. I've even quoted from the CCC, but no snappy retort from you. I wonder why?

Catholics do not justify boiling babies for any reason - just as we do not justify aborting babies for any reason.
If it had been out stated purpose to 'intentionally boil babies', then I'd agree with you. But it wasn't. Yet again, the Japanese govt gets the pass from you so easily. Bushio Code, Home Guard, training 9-yr-old kids armed with bamboo spears to rush Allied lines, "One Hundred Million Heartbeats, One Death", Total War. But somehow, America's the bad guy. Simply amazing.

It is always an intrinsic evil to intentionally and directly kill an innocent human being.
Yet again, you totally ignore my citing of the CCC. Simply amazing.

The atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki did just that.
If what you say is true, then every American serving the the Armed Forces in Aug, 1945 would have been excommunicated latae sententiae, and every American who worked directly for The Manhattan Project and the actual dropping of Fat Man and Little Boy, would have been formally excommunicated.

None of that happened, thus blowing your entire argument out of the water.

Nate, you simply don't know what you're talking about. It's oh-so-easy for you to Monday Morning Quarterback the situation over a half century later.

You're as predictable as you are knee-jerk. I can expect another long winded statement of fantasy by you (that's also painfully short of factual information). Any further comments by you will be unopened, unread, and automatically deleted. I've wasted enough of my valuable time on you.

7:10 PM  
Blogger Anita Moore said...

I hope that I may never be called upon to make the sorts of decisions that had to be made by the men who fought Hitler and Tojo. It is awfully easy to judge those in command from where we sit, untrammeled by the burdens they bore, and unrestricted by the limits of their knowledge at the time.

My grandfather was in the Army Air Corps in the Pacific during World War II. I for one might never have been born had it been necessary to invade the Home Islands. A great many people now living can say the same.

Incidentally, isn't deliberately parking civilians in harm's way a regular trick of our present enemy?

8:03 PM  
Blogger chestertonian said...

I'm not sure where I fall on the debate of our a-bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. There are compelling arguments on both sides. And, I'll say it here, the fact that Nagasaki was the center of Japan's Catholic population*, and was chosen as a target by a U.S. government crawling with Freemasons, does not sit well with me, whatever legitimate military targets the city presented.

That said, I do not take Nate seriously when he rags us all down for our a-bombing in Japan, yet says not a word about Allied bombing (directed mainly by the English) of German cities, including cities with almost zero military value. The firebombing of Dresden alone (according to an article in Chronicles last month) claimed more lives than our a-bombing of two Japanese cities, and people there who lept into its river for relief also were boiled alive.

People who get all weepy about the a-bombing of Japan, while remaining silent about Allied bombing in Germany, are not worth listening to.

*Few know that the one of the biggest monasteries in Nagasaki was founded and built by none other than a then-unknown Polish priest named Maximilian Kolbe. The location he chose it was the side of a mountain, and everyone told him, "Don't build there. The monstery will be destroyed in a mudslide or earthquake. It will never last."

A couple of decades later when Nagasaki was leveled by our a-bomb, the only structure still intact was the monastery that Fr. Kolbe built.

St. Maximilian Kolbe, who at age 10 was visited by our Lady and with all the exuberance of a 10-year-old told her he wanted both crowns -- the white crown of purity and the red crown of martyrdom -- and who suffered all for love of our Lord and his Blessed Mother, and who died praying for the guard who injected carbolic acid into his veins, ora pro nobis.

8:29 PM  
Blogger Adeodatus49 said...

Sorry Cavey, I perhaps didn't read your original article closely enough. My two posts repeated some of your original submission.

I looked up a couple of other bits of info since then. About 25% of the Okinawan population died in the battle: getting caught in the middle of things, but mostly because the Japanese military would not let them surrender or get out of the way (effectively surrendering). The military also convinced them, as had been done on Saipan, that the Americans would eat their children, were employing gorillas in the fighting (yes, folks, African American soldiers and marines), and that the Americans would kill them when they surrendered. All lies. Oh I'm sorry . . . I mean valuable military propaganda.

100,000 minimum (Okinawans + Japanese) died at Okinawa. Minimum, not maximum. I think the 80,000 dead were mostly military related. 5,000 U.S. sailors also died in the battle (at sea). 50,000 American casualties of which 12,000 were deaths as I reported previously. And this is from one relatively small island compared with Kiyushu, the first island the Allies were going to invade to provide air fields for the invasion of the main island (Honsnu).

As I stated previously, this issue will NEVER be settled. I suppose some good research could have been done on the WWII era Japanese gov't's archives, but they no longer exist. According to the late author, Iris Chang, the Japanese gov't destroyed their war time archives when said materials were returned to them sometime in the 1950s by the U.S. Gov't. I wonder why? *sardonic grin*

My best guess is that the archives among other things would have exposed the active complicity of the Imperial Family in the Japanese atrocities in China, specifically vis-a-vis the rape of Nanking. Iris Chang committed suicide a few years ago--clinical depression. Another book recommendations:

Iris Chang, The Rape of Nanking: the Forgotten Holocaust of World War II

This is another depressing read. Gives me some insight why Iris Chang was so depressed. And the story is much more horrendous than what shows up in our silly school books on the war. Cavey mentioned some of it, bayonet practice being one example.

8:32 PM  
Blogger Baron Korf said...

Careful there Nate. I've heard a rumor that if you meet a ret. marine and he spits in your eye that means he likes you.

8:38 PM  
Blogger Vir Speluncae Catholicus said...

Incidentally, isn't deliberately parking civilians in harm's way a regular trick of our present enemy?

It sure is. Good catch.

8:49 PM  
Blogger David said...

Fr Peter Scott of the SSPX argues that the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was "manifestly immoral", on the basis that the Japanese did not present a threat to the civilian populations of the allied countries:

This, of course, ignores the harm done to the civilian populations over-run by the Japanese, and the question of how the war might have been otherwise brought to a less bloody conclusion. His "argument" is that nuclear weapons can never be used justly.

It's the sort of simplistic reasoning that one normally associates with nominal catholics of the "Roman Protestant" variesty.

The war against Japan was defensive. It needed to be brought to an end somehow. One wonders how Fr Scott would suggest it might have been ended.

8:52 PM  
Blogger Vir Speluncae Catholicus said...

If that's the case, then this is love.


With laser precision, you (yet again) cut through the bullshit. And as far as the Naval Battle of Okinawa... wasn't that the costliest battle for the Navy during the entire war? Good God, could you even fathom the casualties... the millions that would have been killed it we didn't drop the bombs?

BTW, I'm familiar with the book you've cited by Iris Chang. Excellent source material. Might I also suggest Prisoners of the Japanese by Gavan Dawes, as well as An Island in Agony by Antonio “Tony” Palomo.


I've heard that info about St Kolbe. I can't ever get tired of hearing that story.


There's a lot that Fr Scott says that I agree with, and some I very much disagree with. But I guess the guy's entitled to his opinion. Too bad he tries to pass it off as official Church Teaching.

9:18 PM  
Blogger Anita Moore said...

Fr Peter Scott of the SSPX argues that the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was "manifestly immoral", on the basis that the Japanese did not present a threat to the civilian populations of the allied countries[.]

If it's true that Japan was not a threat to the civilian populations of the Allies, it was certainly not for want of trying. Japanese treatment of the civil populations of the countries they occupied should give us a clue what they would have done in American and Britain if it had lain within their power.

And it might pay us to ask ourselves what would have happened if Japan had come up with the A-bomb first instead of us.

9:23 PM  
Blogger Vir Speluncae Catholicus said...

There is historical evidence that Japan did have an atomic bomb program. And they were closer than revisionists care to admit. Essentially, much like the Germans, we beat them to the (atomic) punch.

9:36 PM  
Blogger Donald R. McClarey said...

Good thread. An excellent book on how the historical record has been distorted over the years regarding the use of the a-bomb is Hiroshima in History: the Myths of Revisionism.

10:15 PM  
Blogger Adeodatus49 said...

I second the "good thread" comment. And thanks to you, Master Sergeant and to Donald McClarey, for three excellent book recommendations. My roof is being replaced next week so I lose DirecTV access. I need a few books to get me through it and to take me to the end of August.

7 Divisions served on Okinawa, 2 of them U.S. Marines. That battle also killed Army Lt. General Simon Bolivar Buckner, the overall commander. E.B. Sledge's memoir, With the Old Breed presents some of the awful details of the battle at the level of the foot soldier and marine who had to endure the experience. Yeah, another book recommendation along with Sledge's China Marine.

One last (hopefully) controversial comment from me. The late author, John Toland, opined that the war in the Pacific could have been avoided. I refer you to his excellent history of Japan in its militaristic period leading up to and through the Pacific war: The Rising Sun. I also recommend his book, But Not in Shame, about the first 6 months of the Pacific War told from the perspective of the "little guy" who had to fight it/experience it. Yeah, two more book recommendations!

11:27 AM  
Blogger Foxfier, formerly Sailorette said...

Very late to the party, but the Japanese did figure out how to hit the American civilian populations--balloon-carried bombs. My mom also remembers that they looked into invading the west coast, but dismissed it because the population was too well armed.

6:59 PM  
Blogger Foxfier, formerly Sailorette said...

I'd also never heard about this:
Shortly before the US dropped two atomic bombs on Japan, the United Stated showered the Japanese cities of Nagasaki, Hiroshima, and 33 other potential targets with over 5 million leaflets warning civilians of the impending attack.

Nagasaki was also famous for making a LOT of ships-- if I were going to try to knock out someone's Navy, I'd go for the construction, as well, rather than, say, aiming for Sasebo. (Biased on Sasebo, though, since I was stationed there.)

7:09 PM  
Blogger Batjacboy said...


Speaking of John Toland, I just finished (yesterday) his book on the truth behind Pearl Harbor: Infamy.

Another great book.

8:29 PM  
Blogger Adeodatus49 said...


Good book, although I must admit that I am on Gordon Prange's side of the argument ("Pearl Harbor: the Verdict of History"). PH is a near-perfect companion book to Prange's "At Dawn We Slept: the Untold Story of Pearl Harbor."

Anything by John Toland is worth reading.

11:59 AM  

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