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Author Topic: American History  (Read 29369 times)
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Bob
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« Reply #2010 on: February 23, 2008, 10:46:45 PM »

One of my questions was:
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ought we not to take history forward--that is, look at the situation as it existed in the minds of the leaders of the era. In spite of Oppenheimer's preoccupations with regard to using the weapon on a  near defeated nation and on civilians, did the people who made the  decision look at it quite that way?  

For the sake of the discussion let's remove the phrase "as it existed in the minds of the leaders of the era." Let's leave it at "ought we not  take history forward--that is, look at the situation as it existed then?'

The question remains.  I don't want to decide the morality of the issue. I want people to think as people would have thought before the bomb was dropped, because it was only after it was dropped that it revealed itselfas the horrific beast it really was. We didn't fully comprehend the consequences of our act. The bomb, before it was dropped was another weapon in the arsenal, tactical in nature to be used in the strategy of the day--bombing cities. We had already bombed Tokyo, and if I'm not mistaken, Curtis LeMay's statement after Hiroshima was that his boys had done the same to Tokyo on the night of March 9/10 (although it took hundreds of bombers to do so.)  No thought of morality there, was there? No thought of morality at Dresden or Hamburg either. The practice of strategic bombing was inset and civilian populations were being incinerated for at least two years. The difference now was that you could accomplish the same in one raid with one plane and the belief was that the raditiation was a residual effect, not to be worried about. Talk about cost effectiveness--you couldn't beat it!!!

But after we and others inspected the awful carnage of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, we drew a lot of conclusions of a moral nature and realized the awfulness of the situation. The reality was Oppenheimer and some of the scientists around him caught on to the moral issue in advance of others, and that's to their credit.

Oppenheimer himself, after Hiroshima, when confronted with the news that people were dying by the thousands because of radiation, discounted the report by stating the radiation was minimal and should have dissipated by then and was not that dangerous.

I'm not saying the morality of an issue is in the mind of the protagonist. I was taught its in the act itself. Buit unique acts have unintended consequences and/or consequences not thought of. The creators had some idea of the awfulness of the gadget, the politicians did not, and the military didn't give a damn. A weapon to them was a weapon to be used.

As to the Japanese military being ready to surrrender, they were not...what they wanted was to await the invasion and try to hold off the Americans as best they could in hopes of forcing them to abandon the unconditional surrrender policy and cut the best deal they could. Hiroshima put an end to that. If I remember my history, at the meeting to decide what to do, the Japanese War Planning Council couldn't decide on an actual plan and called on the Emperor to make the  decision, and he opted to put an end to the war ASAP. Yes, the military knew the end was near, but they weren't about to give up without one hellava fight.
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Bob
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« Reply #2011 on: February 23, 2008, 11:02:28 PM »

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I've never been called "Whiggish" before
Oh, that's an old, old term I haven't used for years. I picked it up again the new book on the telehone: THE TELEPHONE GAMBIT.  Briefly defined:"the historical pitfall opf not seeing things in their own context but rather judging the past by the norms or standards of the present." (Gambit, page 79) Whigh historians used to engage in the practicce in the nineteenth century, hence the term. In science it means " assuming knowlege that one's historical subjects would have lacked ." And in this discussion I think that's the error being made--asssuming facts not known in 1945, not known before the bomb was dropped.

Nobody had any real idea of how really terrible the bomb was, how really immoral their act was. The morality of the act could only be ascribed after the fact--after inspectors went in and saw the cruelty and horror of it all. Then it was too late. Oppenheimer and some of his fellow scientists came to an early realization, but were unable to pursuade others to at least warn or to demonstrate it before using the instrument.

I'm not sure without checking, but did any of the guys call for not using the bomb at all?

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nytempsperdu
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« Reply #2012 on: February 23, 2008, 11:18:25 PM »

Thanks for the vocab addition, Bob.

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asssuming facts not known in 1945, not known before the bomb was dropped.

This is why I liked staging the debate as if the students knew the results of the test and the projected estimates (as above) and were considering the options in July 1945.   

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madupont
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« Reply #2013 on: February 23, 2008, 11:19:22 PM »

 nytempsperdu,re:#2119
"...there were those who, at least until it was tested, considered it too horrible to contemplate because it might very well mean the end of the world, all of it.  That's a fascinating aspect of the story to me."  Me too.

I figured that out for myself before hearing anything about it from theoretical speculative intuition or informed scientific knowledge. Something about hydrogen suggests the potential chain reaction of burning the atmosphere.
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Dzimas
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« Reply #2014 on: February 24, 2008, 02:48:05 AM »

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The Japanese were ready to surrender, regardless of what the military wanted.  They simply had no one and nothing to fight with.  The surrender talks were stymied by their insistence on keeping their godlike puppet Emperor.  Something that we for some reason could not grant. 


John, this is one of the points the authors bring out in the book.  The other being that the US wanted Japan to surrender before the Soviet Union joined in an allied effort to defeat Japan, with Truman et al. knowing they would have to divide up Japan with the USSR if Stalin was able to claim a joint victory.  The bomb was meant to expedite matters, yes, but not because Japan was dragging on the war.  In the end, Truman ended up letting Japan keep its emperor but he would be subject to the Supreme Commander of the Allied powers, so the US got Japan for itself, and all the Soviets got was Sakhalin Island, which remains bitterly disputed to this day. 

The effort to speed up the Japanese surrender resulted in a lot of pressure put on the scientists in Los Alamos to deliver a bomb by July.  At this point, Groves didn't care whether it was fine-tuned or not.  He just wanted something that would deliver a payload big enough to impress the world that the US had the ultimate weapon of mass destruction.  As such, the bomb was being directed as much at the USSR as it was Japan, with Germany now out of the picture.  Many scientists at Los Alamos, including Oppenheimer initially, wanted the USSR to be involved in the testing of the bomb.  Some even wanted Japanese scientists to be witness to the event, so that they would know what they were up against.  But, in the end the US chose to keep its bomb for itself, leading to a rift in the scientific community, which to this point had been united behind Oppenheimer.

What worried many scientists is that Oppie was actively involved in picking out the targets in Japan, and seemed to show little remorse in the destruction that would take place.  Szilard couldn't believe Oppie could actually go along with such a plan.  It was only after the two bombings, that Oppie showed deep regret, but even still seemed to go along with the White House administration's plan to keep exclusive rights to the bomb, by setting up its in-house Atomic Energy Commission, rather than an international one which is what Bohr and others were wanting.  They felt this was the only way to control nuclear proliferation, which they figured was a foregone conclusion now that the cat was out of the bag.

« Last Edit: February 24, 2008, 02:50:06 AM by Dzimas » Logged
bosox18d
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« Reply #2015 on: February 24, 2008, 03:33:51 AM »

If the Japanese were ready to give it up which I have never seen sources to verify the Military was not and the Military was revered even then.U.S. Intelligence shows the second to be true, the other speculation by later day Historians.Dzimas have any of the recent Balkan events stirred up much passion one way or the other in your neck of the woods?
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"If it keeps going like this,the Zamboni driver is going to be the first star"
Dzimas
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« Reply #2016 on: February 24, 2008, 04:25:55 AM »

Negotiations for surrender were well under way before the Enola Gay flew over Japan.  The firebombings of Tokyo and other major metropolitan centers were on the same scale as Dresden, so Japanese knew well the horrors of war, and knew they were very much on the losing end of it. The US wanted unconditional surrender, Japan wanted to keep its Emperor.  Japan wanted to save face in other words.  There are plenty of historic military records in this regard.  I posted one such website that has numerous primary texts on the subject, and the authors of American Prometheus cite numerous texts as well as military intelligence in this regard.

I think the notion of Japan not being ready to surrender is a convenient historic excuse for dropping the bombs.  Oppenheimer apparently felt that the bombs needed to be dropped to show just what they could do so as to frighten the bejesus out of everyone.  Apparently, a closed test wasn't enough in his mind.  It seemed a couple hundred thousand deaths were the price to pay so that no other country would ever consider the use of an A-bomb.  Pretty callous, and its seems Oppenheimer rued the day he ever said such things, when the full extent of the damage was revealed.  Truman and company seemed to be sending a signal to the USSR that the US was top dog here, and any international agreements would be on American terms, not Soviet or anyone's else's terms, including the fledgling UN.  In other words, no more Yaltas, or Potsdams for that matter.
« Last Edit: February 24, 2008, 08:05:02 AM by Dzimas » Logged
johnr60
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« Reply #2017 on: February 24, 2008, 12:54:49 PM »

Bob:

To avoid the moral issue is to avoid the issue.  And to accept our immoralities against Tokyo and Dresden as somehow preparatory makes no sense to me whatsoever.

It's ok to hit the bank now Willie since you've been practicing on those cigar stores.


Dzimas:

Yes to all and add:  You have to blow up all the bombs if you want an excuse to build more and the more you blow up, the more Haliburton can rebuild.

Bo:

A good spot.  This is the book most often mentioned by Bill Moyer's audience as suggested presidential reading material:

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New York Times military analyst Hanson Baldwin wrote, shortly after the war:

    The enemy, in a military sense, was in a hopeless strategic position by the time the Potsdam demand for unconditional surrender was made on July 26.
           Such then, was the situation when we wiped out Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
           Need we have done it? No one can, of course, be positive, but the answer is almost certainly negative.

       The United States Strategic Bombing Survey, set up by the War Department in 1944 to study the results of aerial attacks in the war, interviewed hundreds of Japanese civilian and military leaders after Japan surrendered, and reported just after the war:

    Based on a detailed investigation of all the facts and supported by the testimony of the surviving Japanese leaders involved, it is the Survey's opinion that certainly prior to 31 December 1945, and in all probability prior to 1 November 1945, Japan would have surrendered even if the atomic bombs had not been dropped, even if Russia had not entered the war, and even if no invasion had been planned or contemplated.

       But could American leaders have known this in August 1945? The answer is, clearly, yes. The Japanese code had been broken, and Japan's messages were being intercepted. It was known the Japanese had instructed their ambassador in Moscow to work on peace negotiations with the Allies. Japanese leaders had begun talking of surrender a year before this, and the Emperor himself had begun to suggest, in June 1945, that alternatives to fighting to the end be considered. On July 13, Foreign Minister Shigenori Togo wired his ambassador in Moscow: "Unconditional surrender is the only obstacle to peace.. .." Martin Sherwin, after an exhaustive study of the relevant historical documents, concludes: "Having broken the Japanese code before the war, American Intelligence was able to-and did-relay this message to the President, but it had no effect whatever on efforts to bring the war to a conclusion."

http://www.historyisaweapon.com/defcon1/zinnpeopleswar.html
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Dzimas
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« Reply #2018 on: February 24, 2008, 02:51:12 PM »

It really is hard to figure out where Oppenheimer stood on the bombing of Japan.  Initially, there seems to be a wave of euphoria on the mesa as news of the successful blast resonated over Los Alamos, but Wilson and other scientists fell into a funk, as they realized the worst of all possible evils had been unleashed, a nuclear arms race.  Opp and others wanted Truman to bring the Soviet Union in on the nuclear program, but Truman prefered to keep it as his trump card.  Opp had his chance to talk with Truman afterward, but apparently felt so much guilt that all he could say was that he had too much blood on his hands, instead of urging Truman to make the atomic energy commission an international body.  The authors note that Oppenheimer's charisma often failed him at moments like this, as he seemed to fall into a bout with self-pity, which didn't endear him to Truman. 

Those closest to Oppenheimer felt he was trying to work from within the Washington establishment to get an international nuclear agency, but those seeing this from the outside saw Opp as a sell out, cutting their ties with him.  It seemed to me that Opp was wrestling with his new found status as the preeminent physicist in the world and didn't want to jeopardize his position, even if it meant swallowing compromises he could barely accept. Here is the Acheson-Lilienthal Report for International Control of Atomic Energy he apparently co-authored, which was eventually watered down,

http://www.learnworld.com/ZNW/LWText.Acheson-Lilienthal.html

especially in regard to giving up soverignty over uranium mines and nuclear facilities to an international body.  Strauss wasn't going to have any of it, given his ties to mining interests.  In the end, Opp seemed to accept the changes, realizing it would have been pretty hard to get Stalin to agree to such a proposal, much less Truman.  There seemed no way to turn back a nuclear arms race.

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Bob
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« Reply #2019 on: February 24, 2008, 03:05:50 PM »

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To avoid the moral issue is to avoid the issue.  And to accept our immoralities against Tokyo and Dresden as somehow preparatory makes no sense to me whatsoever.

I'm not trying to avoid the moral issue--on the contrary. I'm the one bringing it up. What I'm trying to do is put in context, put it back to where it was in August of 1945, not August 2005--when bomb was dropped. I suppose my sarcasm isn't coming through. What I'm trying to get at is that as the Bomb was dropped neither the military or the politicians or the people in general saw any moral issue at all....the issue came to fore as a result of Hiroshima/Nagasaki. I agree Strategic Bombing is immoral as well as using nuclear weapons on cities of any kind. Unfortunately that was not the thought process in 1945. The killing of civilians started in general as early as WWI and was in full swing by 1943 in WWII--with not moral compuction at all. We had found a way to produce a Holocaust by air without being accused of War Crimes (The Japanese files War Crime charges against us after Hiroshima, but they were ignored--to the winner belongs the spoils)

Secondly, the Strategic Bomb Survery's conclusion regarding Japanese surrender intentions is full of donkey do. The Japanese fully intended to fight on until they could force terms of surrender acceptable to them. They intended to oppose the coming invasion, ignored Hiroshima and seemed more concerned with the entry of Russia into the war than anything else. The Supreme War Council  was split between a Peace Faction and a War Faction and the Cabinet couldn't come to a final decision whether to fight or to surrender even after Hiroshima. The Prime Minister, in accordance with Japanese Tradition then turned the decision to be made over to the emperor--who decided on peace at once. In his Rescript the Emperor did mention Hiroshima, did not mention Russia and did not mention other factors. But its now clear that Japanese were going to continue to fight until they could sue for peace on their terms and not peace based on the Potsdam Declaration.

Peace feelers were our as early as March of 1945, so there was a desire to end the conflict, but not an intention to do so unless they got their terms. They wished a negotiated peace. We wished unconditoinal surrender.
« Last Edit: February 24, 2008, 03:11:53 PM by Bob » Logged
johnr60
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« Reply #2020 on: February 24, 2008, 04:54:48 PM »

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as the Bomb was dropped neither the military or the politicians or the people in general saw any moral issue at all....

Those collective nouns present all kinds of trouble in a discussion.  It's easy for me to accept immorality as essential in the first two--I doubt that but a few of the people were sufficiently aware. 

I do have trouble with Harry's need to explain it as saving hundreds of thousands of American lives if there were no moral issue, but then again he may not have been thinking that way before the event. 

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its now clear that Japanese were going to continue to fight until they could sue for peace on their terms

I remains a little muddy for me, given what's been presented, but I'm slow.
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madupont
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« Reply #2021 on: February 24, 2008, 05:27:06 PM »

Would it be all right if I dropped off a link as a follow-up to what was read and discussed about 1968 ?

THIS is a must see, if you weren't paying close attention back then, the time of the Democratic Convention in Chicago and what happened? Having see the Berkeley films of the astounding violence, I didn't think this cartoon drawn format of the trial  would interest me (they do refer in this article  to a coming film from another source which I mentioned to Dzimas. That coming attraction is for people who want to look at live actors who they have come to recognize by now and  then can judge if they fit the character who was a celebrity during the era of Yippie).

If you have not read a complete transcript of the Trial of the Chicago Seven, you will find out through this media what the trial was really about, even though they have adjusted the title for reasons they will explain in this article. The film clips(2)are included on the page.

Film
Recapturing the ’60s, in DayGlo Colors
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/24/movies/24lipt.html?ref=movies
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Bob
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« Reply #2022 on: February 24, 2008, 05:35:44 PM »

Although I admire HST very much, his responses to THE QUESTION over the years got more and more exaggerated. I put little stock in any answers he gave after his original one that he lost no sleep over the matter. That I beleve..but his estimates regarding the lives saved are no longer accepted by too many people. As he grew older he grew tstier and as his life  ebbed I fully beleve he went into early stages of dementia. The entire Merle Miller book should be discounted as the rantings of an old man with faulty memory.
John:

I respect your opinion regarding  the moralty issue.

As to the surrender issue, there are two good recent sources for the position I espouse:RACING THE ENEMY by Tsuyoshi Haegawa, published in 2005 and DOWNFALL: THE END OF THE JAPANESE EMPIRE by Richard B. Frank , published in 1999. I think FIVE DAYS IN AUGUST, just published, by Michael Griffin also does. Of course there's a whole literature regarding the sequence of events and differing with my opinion. If you get into it, be careful to look at publication dates as it took time for people to come forward and for papers to be released revealing what really happened. Early versions tend to tow a line set early and not disputed for decades.
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Bob
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« Reply #2023 on: February 24, 2008, 09:54:46 PM »

In support of my position about Hiroshima, in THE MAKING OF THE RAPE OF NANKING (2006) Takashi Yoshida reports that a Gallup Poll conducted right after the Bomb was dropped, that is, in August of 1945, indicated that 85% of those polled approved of dropping the bomb on cities. (Yoshida, at page 75).

Also:

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America's use of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki fifty years ago unleashed a debate that has not subsided. Historian Charles Mee damned the use of the atomic bomb as wanton murder" and Hanson Baldwin, former military editor of the New York Times, lamented, "we are now branded with the mark of the beast." In its August 24, 1945, issue [see page 3], Commonweal declared: "The name Hiroshima, the name Nagasaki are names for American guilt and shame." Despite such condemnations, a Gallup poll on August 15 showed that 85 percent of the American people approved "using the new atomic bomb on Japanese cities."
(Commonweal Magazine, 8/18/95)

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madupont
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« Reply #2024 on: February 24, 2008, 11:48:05 PM »

Bob
I'm working along those lines with a different account because I am taking classes with a new teacher, from the university of Nanking. She relocated to  Hong Kong, Kuangdong, and then to California where she taught for about ten years.

You know of course that the author Iris Chang,committed suicide three years ago.
[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iris_Chang]


The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II (Paperback)
http://www.amazon.com/Rape-Nanking-Forgotten-Holocaust-World/dp/0140277447/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1203913827&sr=1-1
 
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