When will they ever learn?

Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Allied Commander, at his headquarters in the European theater of operations. He wears the five-star cluster of the newly-created rank of General of the Army. In the public domain.

Kathie Malley-Morrison

As the anniversaries of the U.S. bombing of Hiroshima (August 6, 1945) and Nagasaki (August 9, 1945) snuck by with little acknowledgment and limited chagrin in the US, it troubled me that those world-shattering, paradigm-changing events are, for young people growing up in this country today, basically ancient history.  Doubly unfortunately, the shared “history” is woefully incomplete, the full story never told. Little learned.

The “history” I was taught in public school, which I still hear echoed today, was that the dropping of those atomic bombs was a necessary, essential, moral way to keep those aggressive, warmongering Japanese from increasing their deadly toll on innocent American lives.

Nobody ever told me that Dwight D. Eisenhower, General of the U.S. Army and Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in Europe during World War II, and later a highly-respected President of the United States, opposed dropping those bombs.

In his own words:

“Secretary of War Stimson, visiting my headquarters in Germany, informed me that our government was preparing to drop an atomic bomb on Japan. I was one of those who felt that there were a number of cogent reasons to question the wisdom of such an act…

“During his recitation of the relevant facts, I had been conscious of a feeling of depression and so I voiced to him my grave misgivings, first on the basis of my belief that Japan was already defeated and that dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary, and secondly because I thought that our country should avoid shocking world opinion by the use of a weapon whose employment was, I thought, no longer mandatory as a measure to save American lives. It was my belief that Japan was, at that very moment, seeking some way to surrender with a minimum loss of ‘face’. The Secretary was deeply perturbed by my attitude…”

Eisenhower’s antipathy regarding the use of nuclear weaponry did not diminish after those blood-thirsty, saber-rattling, cock-crowing events of August 1945 .  At the Republican National Convention of August 23, 1956, he warned his party, his country, and the world that:

“We are in the era of the thermonuclear bomb that can obliterate cities and can be delivered across continents. With such weapons, war has become, not just tragic, but preposterous.”

The hour is late; can’t we find a way to address the preposterousness of nuclear arms before tragedy completes envelops the planet and obliterates a large portion of living things? And while we are at it, how about doing something about obliterating lives with drones?

 

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5 Responses to When will they ever learn?

  1. barbara says:

    I well remember my reaction to the second August bombing raid back in 1945. I was horrified by this second attack within days of the first, which had been more than enough to crush an already defeated foe. There was no excuse for such senseless vindictiveness. General Eisenhower was dead right in his opposition to nuclear weapons. The hawks weren’t listening to peaceniks then. Will they listen today when not only our country is vulnerable but the entire planet, as well?

  2. Linda Dupre' says:

    I was born 9 years subsequent to the 1945 bombings of Japan therefore have no first hand recollection of the events. However, throughout High School and College I do remember watching news reels of the events at which time my reaction was (and continues to be) one of sadness and revulsion. Any opposition to use of devastating methods should be heard and considered, non-violence being the primary option.

    Being in the dark about many details, I have wondered recently, what about the UN’s influence, which in 1945 was formed, in part, to reduce international conflict? Is our government ignoring the UN or are its activities sanctioned by the UN?

  3. dot walsh says:

    I posted many of the articles and videos on facebook and attended a small rally remembering August 6 and 9. As I talked with people, many have forgotten the horrific devastation and suffering caused by the atomic bombs dropped on Japan.
    Once again history teaches us if we are willing to pay attention. Thank you for your article!

    http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/vod/mysmallstep/20160806.html

    Broadcast on August 6, 2016
    “Kaoru Ogura dedicated his life to telling the world about the Japanese city where the first atomic bomb was dropped. He brought public figures from other countries together with survivors in postwar Hiroshima, even though he himself
    was born and raised in the U.S. The devastation shocked the visitors, causing them to spread the word internationally. They eventually began supporting the victims and joining in the anti-nuclear movement. The program recounts the life
    and work of those activists and the experiences of Kaoru Ogura.”

    • kathiemm says:

      Thanks, Dot, for being someone who continues to remember what August 6 and 9 stand for, and to acknowledge the devastation inflicted on innocent Japanese civilians by American bombers. The double tragedy is that after WWII,
      the newly formed United Nations made it an international crime to target civilians directly, but our government continues to do so today.
      thanks also for sharing in a separate email, this link to the site of The Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization (IFCO): https://ifconews.org/about-ifco-2/ . So many of us see with dismay the involvement of some religious communities, throughout history, in acts of war that it is valuable to be reminded of the work of particular faith and interfaith groups in the active pursuit of peace and social justice.

  4. Pingback: Can generals sometimes be right? | Engaging Peace

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