These are images shot by Magnum photographer Wayne Miller a month after the dropping of the A bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Tomorrow ( our time) is the 75th anniversary of this event. The decision to drop the bomb was to say the least very complicated. The observation from the troops on the ground that the Japanese were maniacal in their defense of the islands surrounding Japan combined with the knowledge that surrender would come only after an assault on mainland Japan.
Did we HAVE to insist on unconditional surrender? This is the point where presentism has to be discussed. Do we judge historical events by today’s standard or those that existed at the time? Emperor Hirohito was considered a living deity in Japan and it was felt that unless he was forced to renounce his position as a deity , a conditional surrender would not work. Additional pressures to use the bomb came from the fact that Russia in the 11th hour declared war on Japan and Truman wanted no part of Russia asking for territory from Japan.
It is worth noting that 100,000 had perished in Tokyo in March, 1945 from firebombing. With some rationality, General Curtis Lemay declared 100,000 dead didn’t matter if it was by conventional vs. nuclear weapon.
Having recently visited Hiroshima I was struck by how the Japanese, took less than direct responsibility for their part in starting the WWII in the Pacific. This is just cultural in that direct confrontation of the facts is best avoided. I didn’t realize this until I returned from the trip and started reading about their culture. Speaking of our culture - some point to the fact that because it was Japan - home of the yellow man - that it was ok to use the bomb. Well Germany had already surrendered so we will never know if we would have used it against Hitler. It is true that we did not intern German Americans like we did with Japanese Americans. To say the least the whole issue is multi-faceted with no clear cut answers leaving people to have opinions of differing shades.
The Japanese use this time every year to push for Peace in general and I think we can all get behind this idea.
Here are a few photos from my visit