War is horrible. People are killed, maimed, emotionally destroyed. Property is destroyed, wealth is consumed. As we saw in WWI, even the winners lose in protracted wars. As we’ve seen in Viet Nam and Iraq, trying to conduct a “gentle”, “compassionate”, or “politically correct” wars just prolongs the killing, suffering, destruction, and cost. If you must fight a war, the best way to lessen the suffering is to end the war as quickly as possible.
This is why the United States and Japan should celebrate the anniversaries of August 6 and 9, 1945. The atomic bombs we dropped on those dates quickly brought WWII to an end saving at least 150,000 American soldier’s lives and perhaps avoiding the extermination of the Japanese people.
WWII in the Pacific was particularly savage. The Japanese believed in death before dishonor, and surrender was considered dishonorable.
In the battles on island after island the Japanese fought to the death, taking as many American lives as possible before dying. Typically only those Japanese soldiers who were too sick or weak to fight or commit suicide were captured.
Almost all the 32,000 Japanese soldiers on Saipan died, fewer than 1000 were captured. Many of the 20,000 Japanese civilians committed suicide or were killed helping their soldiers. 3426 Americans were killed on this 44.5 square mile island.
Almost all the approximately 23,000 Japanese soldiers on Iwo Jima died, only about 1000 were captured. 5900 Americans were killed on this approximately 8 square mile island.
On 12 square mile Tarawa, approximately 4500 Japanese soldiers died while killing 1696 Americans.
Almost all the 36,200 Japanese soldiers on Guadalcanal died, only about 1000 were captured. The Japanese killed 7100 Americans.
Like their soldiers on these islands, the 73 million Japanese prepared to defend to the last man, woman, and child their almost 146,000 square mile homeland. Everyone who could fight was being trained and armed; even children were taught to fight with spears. The death toll promised to be horrendous.
The American forces anticipated 1,000,000 casualties including at least 150,000 dead.
The atomic bombs convinced the Japanese to surrender saving American lives and avoiding the extinction, or near extinction of the Japanese people.
While the death toll from the atomic bombs was high, Hiroshima 80,000 and Nagasaki 40,000, they were not extreme in WWII. The March 9-10, 1945 bombing raid on Tokyo took about 100,000 lives, the raids on Hamburg took about 42,000 lives, the raids on Dresden took 25,000 lives, raids on London took perhaps 50,000 lives.
Compared to the perhaps 60-70 million Japanese that might have died in the invasion of Japan, the death toll from the atomic bombs was low and a small price to pay for the lives saved.
The quick surrender resulting from the bombs provided other benefits. The Soviet Union was about to join the invasion of Japan so the quick surrender prevented the division of Japan among the US and the USSR.
Perhaps, more importantly, the world saw the destructiveness of these primitive bombs. These convinced the civilized world to avoid use of atomic, now nuclear, weapons.
There’s no question, war is horrible. But, the longer war drags on, the longer combatants can postpone defeat, the higher the cost.
There are at least 150,000 American soldiers and perhaps a few million descendants of those soldiers who lived because President Truman dropped the atomic bombs on Japan. The Japanese people have even more reason to celebrate August 6 and 9, 1945 because nearly every Japanese citizen that lived or was born after WWII owes their lives to those bombs.