by Rod D. Martin
August 9, 2013

Predictable people with short memories are decrying the American atomic bombings of Japan this week, as they do every year.  They are wrong to do so.  America was right in its actions, and saved millions of lives in the process.

In this regard, you will frequently hear Harry Truman’s defenders correctly point out that the War Department’s best projections indicated 10 million would die in the conventional invasion of Japan that was planned for October 1945 and Spring 1946, an invasion which would have been unavoidable but for the bomb.

But ignore all that.  Roughly 90,000 people died in Hiroshima, 60,000 in Nagasaki.  But just one night — March 9-10, 1945 — of conventional bombings over Tokyo had killed 100,000, with a million losing their homes.  Conventional air raids destroyed over 40% of the urban area of the 66 Japanese cities attacked, and similar attacks produced both a larger firestorm and more total destruction in Hamburg, Germany than the A-Bomb did in Hiroshima.

This may seem counterintuitive.  But the truth often is.

And unlike all of that rain of destruction, the atomic bombings ended the war.  And they ended it before the full force of the Allied and Soviet air forces and armies could be turned upon Japan.

Hiroshima and Nagasaki — both bustling, beautiful cities today, by the way — were moral necessities.  They spared a million American lives, maybe ten times as many Japanese, and the total destruction of every inch of Japan, at a cost that was a fraction of what had already been done conventionally.  The fact that the bombs were nuclear changed nothing — and changes nothing for us — except for their ability to snap the Japanese war cabinet out of its delusionary state.

Oh, and one last thing.  You can legitimately question a lot of things about all this.  You can legitimately question FDR’s embargo of Japan, which certainly pushed the latter country into the corner that led it to Pearl Harbor (do I question this? That’s another thing entirely).  And you can legitimately question the Allied strategy of bombing enemy cities (something which subsequent generations of Americans — unlike all their enemies — have nearly eliminated through the deliberate development of precision munitions that end any need for such campaigns).

But can you legitimately question newly-installed President Harry Truman’s decision to drop the Bomb? No. All those earlier decisions had been made.  He made the decision that brought a swift and better peace.

David French does a great job of addressing these topics and more in today’s National Review. You should check it out.

UPDATE:  The Facebook comments system was giving me trouble, so I posted my response to some of those opposing this point of view as “Responses to ‘The Moral Necessity of Hiroshima’” (which actually turned out to be a longer and more detailed article than this one).