It Must Have Been Revenge

In today's Washington Post, reporter Neely Tucker has an article that is essentially an advertisement for an anti-war documentary called "Original Bomb Child" that airs tonight on the Sundance Channel. The documentary uses a great deal of footage from the National Archives that was shot in Hiroshima and Nagasaki after the US dropped atomic bombs on both cities. The doubt that this might be a straight news story can pretty much be dashed with this paragraph:

"To supporters, President Harry S. Truman hastened the end of a horrific war -- more than 50 million people died worldwide in six years -- by using the bomb to pacify a nation that had attacked Pearl Harbor, shown no mercy in the Bataan death march and committed any number of atrocities against the Chinese."

Though the litany of Japanese actions is true, Tucker entirely omits a far more important point. At the time, the White House and the War Department were considering the casualties that might result from invading the Japanese home islands. This operation, called Operation Downfall, would have resulted in roughly one million American casualties and, assuming the civilians fought as we have since learned they would have, upwards of ten million Japanese casualties.Though Japanese casualties as a result of the two bombings was high (somewhere around 350,000 total dead), it would not have been as high as the casualties the other option presented. The reporter does the history of the time a disservice not to mention that as the primary motivation, as opposed to retribution or punishment.