Revisionist History

Robert Duncan posts an article by one Richard Frank on the atomic bombs. Frank says,

Most Americans today are surprised to learn that in 1945 and for approximately two decades thereafter no significant controversy accompanied the use of atomic weapons to end the Pacific War.

Opposition only surfaced in the 1960s, he claims, from “critics” or “revisionists.”

But it is Frank who is the revisionist.

Here’s from the Catholic journal, Commonweal, from August 1945 (republished in 1995 for the 50th anniversary, hence the 1995 date on the page):

The name Hiroshima, the name Nagasaki are names for American guilt and shame.

The war against Japan was nearly won. Our fleet and Britain’s fleet stood off Japan’s coast and shelled Japan’s cities. There was no opposition. Our planes, the greatest bombers in the world, flew from hard won, gailantly won bases and bombed Japanese shipping, Japanese industry and, already, Japanese women and children. Each day they announced to the Japanese where the blows would fall, and the Japanese were unable to prevent anything they chose to do.

Then, without warning, an American plane dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima.

Russia entered the war. There was no doubt before or after Russia entered the war that the war against Japan was won. An American plane dropped the second atomic bomb on Nagasaki.

We had to invent the bomb because the Germans were going to invent the bomb. It was a matter of avoiding our own possible destruction. We had to test the bomb and we tested it in a desert. If we were to threaten the use of it against the Japanese, we could have told them to pick a desert and then go look at the hole. Without warning we dropped it into the middle of a city and then without warning we dropped it into the middle of another city.

And then we said that this bomb could mean the end of civilization if we ever got into a war and everyone started to use it. So that we must keep it a secret. We must keep it as sole property of people who know how to use it. We must keep it the property of peace-loving nations. That is what we said about the atomic bomb – together with odds and ends about motors the size of pin points which would drive a ship three times round the world – that is what we said about it, after we had used it ourselves. To secure peace, of course. To save lives, of course. After we had brought indescribable death to a few hundred thousand men, women, and children, we said that this bomb must remain always in the hands of peace-loving peoples.

For our war, for our purposes, to save American lives we have reached the point where we say that anything goes. That is what the Germans said at the beginning of the war. Once we have won our war we say that there must be international law. Undoubtedly.

When it is created, Germans, Japanese, and Americans will remember with horror the days of their shame.

There were similar articles in The Christian Century and L’Osservatore Romano.

And note this article by Michael Kort of BU in the New England Journal of History:

The debate over the use of the atomic bomb against Japan dates from August 1945. Truman’s first critics spoke out after the attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, even before Japan formally surrendered on September 2, arguing mainly on the basis of pacifist or religious principles.

He cites The Christian Century LXII (August 29, 1945), 974-976.

So who are the revisionists? Those who think no one had a conscience in 1945.