On June 7, 2016

Open letter to President Obama: Hiroshima and Nagasaki

Dear Editor,

Congratulations to President Obama on your historic and thoughtful words and deeds in Japan. You destroyed the artificial suspense created by the media over whether you would apologize or not. No one familiar with your background as someone keenly aware of our history would have predicted any such apology. The generation that fought that war felt virtually unanimously that using the bomb was an Awful Necessity. You have not forgotten the horrors of Japanese militarism (mass indoctrination, ruthless suppression of dissent, the seizure of Korea, Manchuria, Eastern China and much of Southeast Asia). You have not forgotten the Way of the Samurai–that Bushido which forbade the soldiers of the Emperor any thought of surrender.

In the Pacific Theater, as our forces closed in on the Japanese homeland, as their ability to resist weakened, the fighting only intensified. You have not forgotten the bloody conquest of Iwo Jima and the terrible scenes of dogged defense by virtual corpses against flame-throwers, of mothers holding their children and jumping off cliffs rather than submit. If you forget the atrocities inflicted on the peoples of the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, or the homicidal treatment of Allied POW’s, or the indelible stain on Japan’s honor that was the Horror of Nanjing, or a thousand other vile deeds, then all this stubborn fighting to defend hearth and home would seem quite admirable.

But the problem for Allied (mainly U.S.) military planners was that these terrible but wonderfully brave people were never, ever going to surrender. That would only happen if they were confronted with something so unbeatable, so unprecedented that there would be no dishonor in accepting peace terms. In effect, we needed to give them a face-saving out, thereby saving millions of Japanese (not to mention Allied) lives.

Hiroshima and Nagasaki so shocked the world that they gave Emperor Hirohito the gift of enabling him to order his people to “endure the unendurable” They duly obeyed and there was peace. I wonder, Mr. President, would the advocates of apology have preferred a lengthy, bloody devastation of a precious jewel of world culture and the near-extinction of the Japanese people? The advocates of apology have surely forgotten the unforgettable.

Thank you for your kind attention.

Sincerely, Earl Runner, Shrewsbury/Mount Holly

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