Debate Over The Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki - Support - Part of Total War

Part of Total War

Supporters of the bombings have argued the Japanese government had promulgated a National Mobilization Law and waged total war, ordering many civilians (including women and children) to work in factories and military offices and to fight against any invading force. Father John A. Siemes, professor of modern philosophy at Tokyo's Catholic University, and an eyewitness to the atomic bomb attack on Hiroshima wrote:

"We have discussed among ourselves the ethics of the use of the bomb... It seems logical to me that he who supports total war in principle cannot complain of war against civilians."

This point of view was contradicted 7 December 1963 by the Tokyo District Court: "Accordingly, it is wrong to say that the distinction between military objective and non-military objective has gone out of existence because of total war.".

Supporters of the bombings have emphasized the strategic significance of the targets. Hiroshima was used as headquarters of the Fifth Division and the 2nd General Army, which commanded the defense of southern Japan with 40,000 military personnel in the city. Hiroshima was a communication center, an assembly area for troops, a storage point and had several military factories as well. Nagasaki was of great wartime importance because of its wide-ranging industrial activity, including the production of ordnance, ships, military equipment, and other war materials.

An article published in the International Review of the Red Cross notes that, with respect to the "anti-city" or "blitz" strategy, that "in examining these events in the light of international humanitarian law, it should be borne in mind that during the Second World War there was no agreement, treaty, convention or any other instrument governing the protection of the civilian population or civilian property." While it is true there was no general protection, the Hague Conventions did prohibit the targeting of undefended civilians. The Blitz was not one of the charges against Hermann Göring, commander of the Luftwaffe, at the Nuremberg Trials.

On 30 June 2007, Japan's defense minister Fumio Kyuma said the dropping of atomic bombs on Japan by the United States during World War II was an inevitable way to end the war. Kyuma said: "I now have come to accept in my mind that in order to end the war, it could not be helped (Shikata ga nai) that an atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki and that countless numbers of people suffered great tragedy." Kyuma, who is from Nagasaki, said the bombing caused great suffering in the city, but he does not resent the U.S. because it prevented the Soviet Union from entering the war with Japan. Kyuma's comments were similar to those made by Emperor Hirohito when, in his first ever press conference given in Tokyo in 1975, he was asked what he thought of the bombing of Hiroshima, and answered: "It's very regrettable that nuclear bombs were dropped and I feel sorry for the citizens of Hiroshima but it couldn't be helped (Shikata ga nai) because that happened in wartime."

Nagasaki mayor Tomihisa Taue protested against Kyuma, and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe apologized over Kyuma's remark to Hiroshima A-bomb survivors. In the wake of the outrage provoked by his statements, Kyuma had to resign on 3 July.

In early July, on his way to Potsdam, Truman had re-examined the decision to use the bomb. In the end, Truman made the decision to drop the atomic bombs on Japan. His stated intention in ordering the bombings was to bring about a quick resolution of the war by inflicting destruction, and instilling fear of further destruction, sufficient to cause Japan to surrender.

In his speech to the Japanese people presenting his reasons for surrender, the Emperor referred specifically to the atomic bombs, stating if they continued to fight it would result in "...an ultimate collapse and obliteration of the Japanese nation..." In his Rescript to the Soldiers and Sailors, delivered on 17 August, however, he focused on the impact of the Soviet invasion, omitting any reference to the atomic bombings.

Commenting on the use of the atomic bomb, then-U.S. Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson stated "The atomic bomb was more than a weapon of terrible destruction; it was a psychological weapon."

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