Debate Rages Over Hiroshima Bombing and Exhibition
I want to commend you on your article “War of Words” (Dec. 19) about the controversy over the Smithsonian exhibit about the bombing of Hiroshima. It gives both sides and that is important.
The Nuclear Age has been a scary one. But the decision to drop the atomic bomb on the Japanese was a right and needed one and had nothing to do with racism or punishment as the Smithsonian curators wanted to portray.
At the end of the war, the Japanese would have continued fighting to the last man, bringing untold destruction to themselves and American soldiers. As author of “Japan’s Secret War” (Morrow 1985), I have seen the documents showing how Japanese commanders were not going to surrender.
For all our faults, we have been a kind and just people. We don’t boil captives alive as the Japanese did. We don’t hold Inquisitions like the Spanish, nor Holocausts like the Germans. We were the first victors not to rape and pillage. Instead we built up Japan in the Occupation and did the same for Germany through the Marshall Plan.
ROBERT K. WILCOX
So Michael Neufeld and Tom Crouch of the National Air and Space Museum would have World War II be an American “war of vengeance,” while insisting that for “most Japanese, it was a war to defend their unique culture against Western imperialism.”
Were the Japanese defending their unique culture when they bombed Pearl Harbor?
The Times quotes Kai Bird, identified as a World War II historian, as arguing, “The museum has caved in to right-wing political pressure.”
When did American veterans become the right wing? I too have a degree in history. I am not right-wing, but unlike Bird, I was in the war from its start, and in 1945, instead of invading Japan, I went home.
MATTHEW H. PORTZ
Captain, USN (Ret.)
Rancho Palos Verdes
Everyone agrees dropping the bomb on the Japanese was racist, without even stopping to think that the original intent was to drop it on the Germans.
DAVID W. NICHOLAS
James Risen calls it “cavalier” for the exhibit organizers at the Smithsonian to “seem to suggest that the United States had committed an immoral and racist act by dropping the bomb.”
Having interviewed hundreds of Japanese people during my 12 years in Japan, I can tell you this view, hardly cavalier, is shared by many Japanese. It is also shared by many Asians and nonwhite people around the world.
Likewise the organizers are accused of “taking astonishing liberties with the history of World War II” by describing the Pacific war as “an American war of vengeance.”
By “war of vengeance” we are talking about the popular American perception that repaying the Japanese for Pearl Harbor was what the war was all about. I believe that held true then, and does today.
As one who spent more than two years defending China against Japan’s aggression, let us not attempt to revise history.
We all know the atomic bomb is a terrible weapon and hope it will never be used again, but its use against Japan did bring about the end of WWII and saved many allied lives. The fact is, Japan lost many more lives (than were lost at Hiroshima) from the almost around-the-clock fire-bombing of their homeland by the 20th Air Force.
The Smithsonian exhibit should bring out that the loss in life of Chinese civilians from before 1937 to mid-1945 from the Japanese military invasion was about 12 million.
I fail to understand why the changes from the original exhibit are solely attributed to right-wing pressures.
As a veteran of World War II and a Democrat, I had the same feeling of outrage over the original script as the Republicans.
I’m sure there are just as many Democrats who felt betrayed by those so-called purists in charge of the Smithsonian.
It’s time for a change.
HENRY L. HOWE
What was the American mind-set in 1945, which tilted the balance toward destruction and away from negotiation? And what convinces Americans today the bombings were justified? Documents supporting the possibility of a peaceful settlement are available in major libraries.
The decision to bomb seemed to be a like-minded response of people raised with specific values. As a nation steeped in the myth of technology, we readily accepted the concept of an unconditional surrender--the triumph of good over evil. There would be no compromise.
Western nations accepted the violence of the atomic bomb, not only as something viable but even beneficial. There was very little probing into the morality of the act either here or in Britain.
Re Crouch and Neufeld’s decision that Iwo Jima and Okinawa were cake walks and made the bomb unnecessary: About 30 guys I went to school with are still in those and other islands. Underground.
My question to Crouch and Neufeld and the 62 authors and academics who wrote supporting their concept is, where the hell were all of you Aug. 6, 1945?
I was on a destroyer escort in Leyte Gulf, assigned to inshore bombardment in the invasion of Japan. The odds were not very good.
JOHN F. GORMAN
In the groups of veterans I belong to, there are men and women from all sectors in the spectrum of educational accomplishment. We have people with degrees and advanced degrees--physicists, doctors, lawyers, successful business people and, yes, people who are well versed in history.
We have as much intellectual capability to judge the philosophical direction of a sector of history as any of our peers. It is my opinion that the rhetoric of the curators on the Enola Gay exhibit is governed by their political beliefs and does not present the complete and unbiased picture of events.
WILLIAM H. GRIEBEL