By Mark Steyne, The Jerusalem Post, Aug 3, 2005
Forwarded by MGen Hank Stelling USAF (Ret) via BGen Bob Clements USAF (Ret)

Note From Jug: Be sure to read Bob Clements’ comments and enclosure at the end of this article for a realistic historical perspective of then and now.

Until sixty years ago, all Nagasaki meant to most westerners was the setting for Madame Butterfly and a novelty pop song from the 1920s: Back in Nagasaki where the fellers chew tobaccy / And the women wicky-wacky-woo.

Fats Waller, Cab Calloway, the Mills Brothers, Benny Goodman, Django Reinhardt - there was no shortage of recordings of “Nagasaki” through the Thirties and early Forties, up to, oh, about two minutes past 11 on the morning of August 9th 1945. And since then, well, you don't hear the song too much anymore. Nagasaki joined Hiroshima as a one-word shorthand for events beyond the scale of Tin Pan Alley exotica.

Sometimes the transformative event comes in an instant, as it did out of the skies from a B-29 sixty Augusts ago. Sometimes the transformation is slower and less perceptible: The United States that so confidently nuked two Japanese cities is as lost to us as the old pre-mushroom cloud Nagasaki. In what circumstances would Washington nuke an enemy today?

Were we to re-run World War Two, advisors to the president would counsel against the poor optics of dropping the big one, problems keeping allies on board, media storm, Congressional inquiries, UN resolutions, NGOs making a flap, etc. And chances are the administration would opt to slug it out town for town in a conventional invasion costing a million casualties.

There's no doubt the atomic bomb wound up saving lives - American, Japanese, and maybe millions in the lands the latter occupied. The more interesting question is to what degree it enabled the Japan we know today. They were a fearsome enemy, and had no time for decadent concepts such as magnanimity in victory.

If you want the big picture, the Japanese occupation of China left 15 million Chinese dead. If you want the small picture, consider Tarawa in the Gilbert Islands. It fell to the Japanese shortly after Pearl Harbor, when the 22 British watch keepers surrendered to vastly superior forces. The following year, the Japanese took their British prisoners, tied them to trees, decapitated them, and burned their bodies in a pit. You won't find that in the Geneva Conventions.

The Japs fought a filthy war - but a mere six decades later and America, Britain and Japan sit side by side at G7 meetings, the US and Canada apologize unceasingly for the wartime internment of Japanese civilians, and an historically authentic vernacular expression such as “the Japs fought a filthy war” is now so distasteful that use of it inevitably attracts noisy complaints about offensively racist characterizations. The old militarist culture - of kamikaze fanatics and occupation regimes that routinely tortured and beheaded and even ate their prisoners - is dead as dead can be.

Would that have happened without Hiroshima and Nagasaki, or the earlier non-nuclear raids? In one night of “conventional” bombing - March 9th - 100,000 Japanese died in Tokyo. Taking a surrender from the enemy is one thing; ensuring that he's completely, totally, utterly beaten is another. A peace without Hiroshima and Nagasaki would have been a different kind of peace; the surrender would have been, in every sense, more “conditional:” Japanese militarism would not have been so thoroughly vanquished, nor so obviously responsible for the nation's humiliation and devastation, and therefore not so irredeemably consigned to history. A greater affection and respect for the old regime could well have persisted, and lingered to hobble the new modern, democratic Japan devised by the Americans.

Which brings us to our present troubles.

Nobody's suggesting nuking Mecca. Well, okay, the other day a Republican Congressman, Tom Tacredo, did - or at any rate he raised the possibility that at some point America might well have to “bomb” Mecca.” Even I, a fully paid-up armchair warmonger, balked at that one, prompting some of my more robust correspondents to suggest I'd gone over to the side of the New York Times pantywaists. But forget about bombing Mecca and consider the broader lesson of Hiroshima and Nagasaki: an enemy folds when he knows he's finished. In Iraq, despite the swift fall of the Saddamites, it's not clear the enemy did know.

Indeed, the western peaceniks pre-war “human shields” operation proved to be completely superfluous mainly because the Anglo-American forces decided to treat not just Iraqi civilians and not just Iraqi conscripts but virtually everyone other than Saddam, Uday and Qusay as a de facto human shield.

Washington made a conscious choice to give every Iraqi the benefit of the doubt, including the fake surrenderers who ambushed the US marines at Nasiriyah. If you could get to a rooftop, you could fire rocket-propelled grenades at the Brits and Yanks with impunity, because, under the most onerous rules of engagement ever devised, they wouldn't fire back just in case the building you were standing on hadn't been completely evacuated. Michael Moore and George Galloway may have thought the neocons were itching to massacre hundreds of thousands, but the behavior of the Ba'athists suggests they knew better: they assumed western decency and, having no regard either for enemy lives or for those of their own people, acted accordingly.

Was this a mistake? Several analysts weren't happy about it at the time, simply because Washington and London were exposing their own troops to greater danger than necessary. But, with hindsight, it also helped set up a lot of the problems Iraq's had to contend with since: not enough Ba'athists were killed in the initial invasion; too many big shots survived to plot mischief and too many minnows were allowed to melt back into the general population to provide a delivery system for that mischief. And in a basic psychological sense excessive solicitude for the enemy won us not sympathy but contempt. Better Nagasaki than a lot of misplaced wicky-wacky-woo.

The main victims of western squeamishness in those few weeks in the spring of 2003 turned out to be not American or coalition troops but the Iraqi civilians who today provide the principal target for “insurgents.” It would have better for them had more Ba'athists been killed in the initial invasion. It would have been preferable, too, if the swarm of foreign jihadi from neighboring countries had occasionally been met with the “accidental” bombing of certain targets on the Syrian side of the border.

Wars fought under absurd degrees of self-imposed etiquette are the most difficult to win - see Korea and Vietnam - and one lesson of Germany and Japan is that it's easier to rebuild societies if they've first been completely smashed. Michael Ledeen, a shrewd analyst of the present conflict, likes to sign-off his essays by urging the administration, “Faster, please.” That's good advice. So too is: “Tougher, please.”

The writer is senior North American columnist for Britain's Telegraph Group.

Comments from BGen Bob Clements:

At one time I was one of two pilots assigned to the 8090th PACUSA detachment out of 20th AAF Headquarters. Our job was to fly as personal pilots to BG Fred Irving. On an inspection trip to Tinian, and then to Saipan, we had 14 flags on board our C-46F, tail number 8546, which included General Thomas C Handy. About half way up to Tinian from Guam I felt a tap on my shoulder and a full bird Colonel on General Handy's staff informed me the General would like to come up and ride the co-pilots seat. I told him, “Hell yes, sir. He can even fly the bird if he wishes to.”

He put the headphones on and we had a meaningful discussion all the way to Tinian. I remember thinking that, as a Lt, how would I ever have had the privilege of talking to a four star General if I had not held the job to which I was assigned? He was a very articulate, thorough, and soft spoken, gentleman. I had been informed that he was the General who signed the order to drop the atomic weapons while Truman was on his way home from the Potsdam conference.

Truman actually never signed the order but just approved the written order. I asked General Handy if he had ever had any qualms about dropping the bomb. He said, “Absolutely not. We would have lost a million lives on both sides.” I remember also thinking at the time that I was happy the bomb was dropped because the odds were heavily in favor that. I would have been one of the million that we lost.

As for the author’s comments about the Japanese beheading and then eating their prisoners, we hung a Japanese Admiral and Warrant officer on Guam for doing exactly that after a war crimes trial was concluded at COMMARIANNAS. I think Admiral Pownall (sp?) was the commander. He was actually one of the 14 stars aboard my aircraft during the above story I related about General Handy..

As you will notice, even then the politicians let the military take the guff and do the dirty work. Truman never offically signed the order. As a matter of fact the target date had been delayed purposefully to make sure he was at sea when the first explosion rocked the world..

The written order for the use of the atomic bomb against Japanese cities was drafted by General Groves. President Truman and Secretary of War Stimson approved the order at Potsdam.

The order made no mention of targeting military objectives or sparing civilians. The cities themselves were the targets. The order was also open-ended. “Additional bombs” could be dropped “as soon as made ready by the project staff.”


E.O. 11652, Secs 3(E) and 5(D) or (E)
NND 730039
By ERC NARS, Date 6-4-74

25 July 1945

TO: General Carl Spaatz, Commanding General
United States Army Strategic Air Forces

1. The 509 Composite Group, 20th Air Force will deliver its first special bomb as soon as weather will permit visual bombing after about 3 August 1945 on one of the targets: Hiroshima, Kokura, Niigata and Nagasaki. To carry military and civilian scientific personnel from the War Department to observe and record the effects of the explosion of the bomb, additional aircraft will accompany the airplane carrying the bomb. The observing planes will stay several miles distant from the point of impact of the bomb.

2. Additional bombs will be delivered on the above targets as soon as made ready by the project staff. Further instructions will be issued concerning targets other than those listed above.

3. Discussion of any and all information concerning the use of the weapon against Japan is reserved to the Secretary of War and the President of the United States. No communiqués on the subject or releases of information will be issued by Commanders in the field without specific prior authority. Any news stories will be sent to the War Department for specific clearance.

4. The foregoing directive is issued to you by direction and with the approval of the Secretary of War and of the Chief of Staff, USA. It is desired that you personally deliver one copy of this directive to General MacArthur and one copy to Admiral Nimitz for their information.

(Signed) THOS. T. HANDY

General, G.S.C.
Acting Chief of Staff

copy for General Groves


The above declassified order is why we do not speak Japanese as our official language - mushi mushi.

Chk 6