From a reader:
Your points are well made. But, I would mention that the use of the Atomic bombs on both Nagasaki and Hiroshima hinged on a point of the rules of war that needs mentioning. By 1943 Japan had moved 90% of its war production into small factories that employed fewer than 100 workers. The reason was two fold. First, was the attempt to shield its war industry from attack, hoping that America would not bomb civilian areas. Second, Japan had no mass transit system that could move large numbers of factory workers to war plants located away from civilian areas. Following the Sino-Japanese War, with its build up of military-related depots, Hiroshima gradually took on the atmosphere of a military supply base. In 1942, the Marine Headquarters (commonly known as the Akatsuki Corps) was established in the city. To supplement ongoing labor shortages, depots and military factories mobilized women and students as labor. It is said that by May 1944, about one quarter of the factory workers in the prefecture were mobilized students.
To quote John Hersey’s book “Hiroshima”;
It contained the 2nd Army Headquarters, which commanded the defense of all of southern Japan. The city was a communications center, a storage point, and an assembly area for troops. To quote a Japanese report, “Probably more than a thousand times since the beginning of the war did the Hiroshima citizens see off with cries of ‘Banzai’ the troops leaving from the harbor.”
My own recollection of history is that Hiroshima was a frequent departure point for Japanese Capital ships during the war.. (calling Hiroshima a non-military target is anti-historical)
As for Nagasaki, it contained a Mitsubishi plant that made aircraft motors, also a torpedo factory. In the calm waters of Shimabara Bay, Kamikazes trained in maneuvering high-powered motor boats designed to run explosives into enemy landing craft.
I’m afraid I just don’t see any conflict in our morality in dropping the Atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The targets were picked on the basis of them having a military/strategic significance and having geographical features that would maximize the effectiveness of the bombs in destroying the target. The fact that these military targets also included civilians mixed in close proximity is entirely the fault of the Japanese who built workers housing within walking distance of military factories and used middle- school students as laborers. Japan even used Nagasaki as a base for its own water born suicide bombers. It was all but impossible to separate civilian from military in those two cities. To bomb one was to bomb the other.
Finally, I personally think that the greatest impetus to use the atomic bombs was the costs involved in their development. comparing the $20 billion spent on them by 1945 to the relative share of GDP they consumed, such a weapon if developed today would cost $984,661,586,732. Thankfully there is no weapon needed today that could cost that much. But what if we spent that kind of money and didn’t use the weapon? When the Bomb was dropped on Hiroshima American combat losses were about 850-900 per day. I can’t imagine any excuse that would have been found acceptable to the American people for spending the modern equivilent of one trillion dollars on a weapon system that we were afraid to use because of moral implications while almost 1000 Americans a day were dying. You see it wasn’t just the invasion of Japan that we averted, we were still mopping up in the Phillipines and countless other islands that had to be invaded put us in range of Japan to drop those atomic bombs.
Anyway, that’s my two cents.