Swickard: Good bomb or bad bomb?

Enola Gay, the B-29 bomber is in in the Smithsonian
© 2015 Michael Swickard, Ph.D.
            In the 1939 movie, The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy was told by Glinda, "The Munchkins want to know, are you a Good Witch or a Bad Witch." Until then Dorothy and the viewing public had thought all witches were bad. But The Wizard of Oz revolves around Good Witches and Bad Witches.
            That lesson might translate to other things in our world. August 6th is the 70th anniversary of the atomic bomb over Hiroshima, Japan. It followed the July 16, 1945 detonation of a 20 kiloton nuclear device at Trinity Site, New Mexico, and was followed by the detonation of a second atomic bomb over Nagasaki, Japan.
            A few days later Japan unconditionally surrendered. World War Two was over. It remains the most deadly war of all time in our world. About three percent of the world's population died in the conflict and that number might be low. In raw numbers the estimate is sixty million people died.
            And for the most part the dying was over after two atomic bombs forced Japan to surrender. Especially in the last thirty years there has been a fierce debate about those actions. Usually it is an explosive argument when people discuss using two atomic bombs to end World War Two.
            Perhaps we should ask: were they a good bomb or a bad bomb? Like witches we automatically assume all atomic bombs to be bad. Were they, are they?
            Certainly they have the liability of injuring people with radiation long after the war has ended. But the official position of our country and our politicians is that injury by radiation does not matter at all. How do I know that? I am a Downwinder injured by the Trinity explosion which injured thousands of other New Mexicans but our government and politicians are still seventy years later ignoring our injuries.
            The question most people ask: Did the nuclear bombs really end World War Two? The day of surrender Emperor Hirohito broadcast, "The enemy has begun to employ a new and most cruel bomb, the power of which to do damage is, indeed, incalculable, taking the toll of many innocent lives. Should we continue to fight, not only would it result in an ultimate collapse and obliteration of the Japanese nation, but also it would lead to the total extinction of human civilization."
            It was very chaotic in Japan. Some members of the Japanese Military did not want to surrender but they revered the Emperor. Japan was in essence a dictatorship not of the Emperor but the Military. The Emperor was truly a figurehead and General McArthur who ran Japan in the first five years after the war's end understood this and allowed Hirohito to have a post-war figurehead role.
            For several years I lived in Japan and heard several Japanese say that they had been ordered by the military to sharpen broom handles and they were supposed to try to stab invading Americans when they landed. They were grateful the war ended for whatever reason. They did not wish to die needlessly.
            Further, I drink coffee with a man who was on a troop ship to Japan and was going to make the first of two major landings. He says the reason he is still alive and had a career as a high school teacher is that the war ended suddenly. He is a supporter of the use of atomic weapons.
            Seventy years later we can inspect the plans that were in effect for the invasion to end the war. Operation Olympic was to be on the Southern-most Japanese island of Kyushu November 1, 1945 while Operation Coronet the invasion of main island Honshu south of Tokyo was scheduled for four months later.
            The pentagon planning paper was called Operation Downfall. It projected millions of deaths. But we and the Japanese were spared that holocaust of death.
            Can atomic bombs be good? Yes, when they end a dictatorship and allow Japan to become a democracy. I told this to a clerk in a store recently. She said she could not believe atomic bombs to be good. I replied, the use of force, the use of good atomic bombs allows you to reject the truth.