Letters to the Editor: Hiroshima wasn’t the start of the nuclear age; building the bomb at all was
To the editor: To argue we didn’t need to start the nuclear age by dropping the bombs on Japan 75 years ago, as historians Gar Alperovitz and Martin J. Sherwin do in their op-ed article, is overly simplistic.
We didn’t start the nuclear age by dropping the bomb; we started it by inventing the bomb. And once we had, it was inevitable that the Soviet Union would feel the need to build their own, leading to the arms race. Also, we didn’t invent the bomb primarily to defeat Japan; we did it to counter Nazi Germany’s effort to build it first.
The decision to use the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of the World War II is far more nuanced than the article suggests. President Harry S Truman “knew” it was unnecessary, or he “knew” it was necessary, depending which facts one cherry picks. The terms of surrender, the role of Russia and strong opposition to unconditional surrender within the Japanese military were all considerations that Truman was balancing when deciding to force a Japanese surrender.
We should avoid condemning historical decisions based on hindsight.
Paul Stull, Carpinteria
To the editor: When I was a history student at Harvard in the 1950s, it was thought the U.S. had to drop atomic bombs on Japan to end the war. Distinguished Harvard professor Samuel Eliot Morison argued the necessity of dropping the bombs in the 15th volume of his “History of United States Naval Operations in World War II.”
Alperovitz and Sherwin are right that Truman and U.S. military leaders knew Japan would surrender when Russia declared war on it because the country could not fight a war on two fronts. While it is important to face this truth about the unnecessary use of the atomic bombs against defenseless civilians, we should also acknowledge the dropping of a second bomb on Nagasaki was inexcusable after the horrible destruction wrought by the first bomb at Hiroshima.
But even more important than owning up to having started the nuclear age is the need to continue negotiations with Russia on New START, the treaty that caps U.S. and Russian nuclear warheads. The Trump administration’s insistence that China join in the treaty may derail this safeguard to further nuclear arms development.
Fred Fenton, Seal Beach
To the editor: As a college student in 1962, I had the privilege of meeting with Truman for 20 minutes in Independence, Mo. We discussed the Cuban Missile Crisis and the atomic bomb.
What Alperovitz and Sherwin omit about the decision to use the bomb was that Truman was justifiably afraid that if the Russians unilaterally invaded Japan without an equally bloody American participation, the Communists would have occupied much of post-war Japan.
As the authors note, the Japanese may have feared the Russians as much as they did the bomb; however, Truman acted strategically to both save American lives and to forestall a long-term Russian occupation of Japan.
Truman acted decisively in using the bomb to end the war and to protect the postwar strategic interests of both America and Japan. His action also saved an estimated 500,000 American lives, possibly including that of my father.
Gary Wartik, Camarillo
To the editor: To me it’s just sickening what a ridiculous amount of money we’ve spent on the arms race all these years that could’ve been used to eliminate poverty.
I lived in Japan for seven years and went to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park three times, and it left a lasting impression. Our military could have dropped that bomb over the ocean, and Japan would have surrendered after seeing such devastating horror.
I hope and pray that this will never be repeated in any country.
Lynn Thompson, Redondo Beach
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