Satoshi Kanazawa

The Scientific Fundamentalist

Dropping atomic bombs on Japan was an act of utmost compassion

Dropping atomic bombs on Japan was an act of utmost compassion

Posted Aug 21, 2008

After the fall of Okinawa in June 1945, the Japanese government prepared for the ground invasion by the Allied forces and the final battle on the mainland. Back in August 1944, the government had issued a decree, officially classifying all Japanese citizens (what’s left of them, mostly women, children, and the elderly, as all young men had already been mobilized) as military combatants and armed them all with bamboo spears. Yes, bamboo spears. Here are some contemporary pictures of women and children being armed with bamboo spears and trained to fight the enemies with them.















The women and children were told to fight the invading American ground forces with their bamboo spears till death. They were told that to surrender and be captured by the enemy was the ultimate shame and that they should die fighting instead. The national slogan at the time, propagated by the government and spread to the whole nation, was “Ichioku Gyokusai” (“100 million on a suicidal mission in honor of the Emperor”). They were absolutely prepared to die fighting the American soldiers with their bamboo spears.

Imagine the D-Day invasion in Normandy where the Germans on Omaha Beach were armed only with bamboo spears. It’s not difficult to imagine what the outcome would have been. The opening scenes of Saving Private Ryan would have looked quite different.

By his decision to drop two atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing only 200,000 people, Harry S. Truman avoided the annihilation of an entire nation and saved the lives of 100 million people. The Japanese Army had tanks, and the Japanese Navy had airplanes, so they were not impressed with the American tanks and airplanes. Repeated carpet bombings of Tokyo in March 1945 did not faze them. The only thing that would convince the Japanese people, and, more importantly, their military leadership, of the utter American technological superiority and the complete futility of resistance were the atomic bombs, which they did not have.

They would never have surrendered had we not dropped the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. That would have necessitated ground invasion of mainland Japan by the American forces, which would have led to many, many more Japanese to be killed, up to 100 million. You are equally dead whether you are killed by a bullet or an atomic bomb. 100 million people killed by bullets, one at a time, over weeks and months, is much, much worse, by any account, than 200,000 people killed in a flash of a second by atomic bombs.

All of this is common knowledge for anyone who is even remotely familiar with modern Japanese history.

Not that compassion for enemies at times of war is a good thing or that, even if it was, the Japanese necessarily deserved our compassion, given a large number of atrocities committed by their army. But if it’s compassion you want, you can’t do better than saving the lives of 100 million people.