The myths of Hiroshima

A disturbing piece for those of us who’d like to believe that we’re the good guys:

The hard truth is that the atomic bombings were unnecessary. A million lives were not saved. Indeed, McGeorge Bundy, the man who first popularized this figure, later confessed that he had pulled it out of thin air in order to justify the bombings in a 1947 Harper’s magazine essay he had ghostwritten for Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson.

The bomb was dropped, as J. Robert Oppenheimer, scientific director of the Manhattan Project, said in November 1945, on “an essentially defeated enemy.” President Truman and his closest advisor, Secretary of State James Byrnes, quite plainly used it primarily to prevent the Soviets from sharing in the occupation of Japan. And they used it on Aug. 6 even though they had agreed among themselves as they returned home from the Potsdam Conference on Aug. 3 that the Japanese were looking for peace.

There is some evidence that the bombs were used in response to reports–censored by the press of the day in response to a military gag order–that the Japanese were floating high-altitude balloons loaded with explosives across the ocean, a few of which reached the western United States. The program was intended to carry deadly biotoxins to the U.S., but the nuclear blasts at Hiroshima and Nagasaki came before that phase of the program could be carried out.

Still, shouldn’t the government tell us instead of sticking to a mythology that teaches that the decision to drop the bombs was made for humanitarian reasons?

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