I’ve heard endless arguments, all of them circular, about why we had to drop the atomic bomb on Japan to save American lives. If I, Stephen Hartshorne, were to state that dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary, there’s no reason anyone ought to pay any attention to my opinion.
But if you were an American president making a decision like that, wouldn’t you at least ask Eisenhower what he thought?
There have been a number of documentaries on the subject in recent years and they all involve: #1 the immense cost in US casualties of an invasion of Japan, #2 the insistence of the Japanese on keeping the emperor at any human cost whatsoever and #3 the imminent entry of the Russians into the Pacific war.
Now the critical consideration is whether the US should allow the Japanese to keep the emperor. In fact, in the end, we did, largely to maintain civil order during the occupation. If we had agreed to this before dropping the bomb, we wouldn’t have had to drop it. And if allowing the Japanese to save face in this way was unacceptable, then why did we end up doing it anyway.
You have to remember the Japanese emperor was utterly and completely insane. Even after the SECOND atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, he was more worried about keeping his sacred mirror and his sacred tea cozy — or whatever it was — than on his responsibility to his subjects.
I had this discussion with my friend Ed, and he said, basically, “The bastards deserved it and it prevented the loss of American lives.” So I said, “If they were willing, prior to the dropping of the bomb, to surrender and allow us to occupy their homeland if only we would allow them to save face, why not do it?”
“I don’t want them to save face,” he said. OK let’s turn that around. Would we have sacrificed hundreds of thousands, perhaps a million or more American lives in an invasion to prevent the Japanese from saving face? Of course not. Or should we have killed millions of innocent people, who had no part in starting the war, simply to prevent the emperor from saving face?
Or should we have fulfilled all our war objectives and simply let an idiotic old man keep his sacred mirror and his sacred tea cozy — as we eventually did anyway.
I am afraid that Truman dropped the bomb as a demonstration to the Soviets or anyone else who wanted to challenge our supremacy in the post-war world. It gives me the shivers to say it, because it represents beastly, inhuman reasoning, but I can see no other motive except complete and utter stupidity.