Saturday, August 8, 2015

Harry Truman - 2; Rest of World - 0

That hedline was a phrase used by a professor of mine back when I was in college.

Admittedly, this particular history professor was not a fan of the man who happened to be in office as U.S. president at the point when World War II came to an end.

LARGELY BECAUSE OF the actions that took place 70 years ago this weekend that were authorized by Harry S. Truman. He gave permission for the atomic bomb to be used, first in a test so Japanese authorities could see for themselves what hell could be wrought upon themselves.

Then, 70 years ago Thursday, the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. Followed up by the one dropped 70 years ago Sunday on Nagasaki.

In theory, U.S. officials were prepared to keep "nuking" Japanese cities until an unconditional surrender was reached. It only took the two cities to be destroyed before that happened -- which was fortunate because it would have taken some time for the U.S. military to come up with more atomic devices.

Now the point my old history professor was trying to get at was despite all the rhetoric of the cold war and the tensions between the United States and Soviet Union (and the near bombings of the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962), nuclear weapons were never used.

NO MATTER HOW much some people wanted to think of the U.S.S.R as a warmonger and evil state, they never actually gave the "go" order to unleash nuclear war.

Not on the United States. Not on anyone.

Truman was the only one who ever gave the order to unleash the terror and destruction that goes along with nuclear devices -- where it may be that the most fortunate people are the ones who are killed instantly by the blast.

The lasting radiation that contaminates all the resources necessary for life and causes more death and destruction in future years is worse.

IT TOOK MANY decades before we truly realized how many people were "killed" on those days 70 years ago this weekend. It certainly wasn't something anybody appreciated at the time.

Now I know some people are going to want to rant and rage at this point. The more irrational will get all worked up over "dirty little Japs" (or whatever slur they prefer to use) and claim they got what they deserved.

There also is the argument about how the militaristic mentality that took hold in Japan in the 1930s (and turned Emperor Hirohito into a virtual puppet) would have had the Japanese people fight to the death -- resulting in millions more casualties of U.S. soldiers and sailors if an invasion of Japan had been required.

There probably are people who are only dying now whose lives would have been lost 70 years ago!

BUT PERHAPS WE should remember that the reason those scientists worked for a time under the grandstand at the old Stagg Field at the University of Chicago was the fear that German scientists were coming up with an identical weapon that could have been used against the United States.

There actually is a novel entitled "Fatherland" that purports to offer an alternate history of World War II, one in which it ends as a draw between a Nazi German government and the U.S. (when the first bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, Adolf Hitler retaliated by dropping his bomb on New York, according to that story line).

There are those who think the ultimate war victims were the residents of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, although those places as targets were all so accidental. This was a weapon designed for use on Berlin.

And when we debate the soundness of nuclear weapons and the desire to keep them out of the hands of Iran, perhaps we can wonder what would have been if they had never come into play anywhere on this planet.


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