August 9, 1945, a Date that Will Live in Infamy
By Robert Higgs • Saturday August 9, 2008 9:58 AM PDT • 23 Comments
I note with sadness that today is the sixty-third anniversary of the U.S. explosion of an atomic bomb over Nagasaki, Japan. The explosion killed an estimated 40,000 to 75,000 persons immediately, and perhaps as many as 80,000 died by the end of 1945 from the effects of their wounds and radiation sickness. Nearly all of the victims were civilians.
President Truman ordered this attack even though Japan was already effectively defeated. It possessed no capability to harm Americans in their home territory, and its surrender was only a matter of time, especially in light of the Soviet Union’s declaration of war against Japan on August 9, four days after its unilateral abrogation of the Soviet-Japanese Neutrality Pact, and its initiation of military actions against Japanese forces in Manchuria. Japan, not yet a rich country, was militarily and economically exhausted from the wars in which it had been engaged since 1937. The Japanese government sought only reasonable terms, including retention of the emperor as the nation’s supreme political authority.
Any “point” the United States government sought to make about its newly devised military power, whether to the Japanese or to the Soviets, had already been made all too well by its devastating explosion of an atomic bomb over Hiroshima three days earlier. The decision to drop the second bomb must be condemned by every decent person as a gratuitous criminal act. The U.S. armed forces had already killed hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians by fire-bombing the highly flammable houses and other structures in which the people lived and worked. To kill another huge number of people—men, women, and children, prisoners of war, foreigners, and other innocent persons in the city—was a war crime, plain and simple. That many Americans continue, even today, to defend this senseless and flagrantly brutal act is shameful.