Today is the 67th anniversary of the first use of atomic weapons. The day will no doubt be commemorated by the Usual Suspects - those motivated by modern politics rather than sympathy for the souls of the dead*.
We will no doubt hear how this a a barbaric, despicable act, one that was entirely unjustified. Those who say this will probably not have heard of anything that I relate in this post. In short, it is the empty noise of ignorance that sees in itself wisdom. They don't know that there was a moral justification, and a practical one.
The Moral Justification for dropping the bomb
There are people who think that justice requires a response, that karma will be balanced in this world or the next, and that crime and punishment cannot be separated. We frequently hear this from those who seek to establish the guilt of this Republic with charges of crimes committed long ago. And so the bill of indictment for the Imperial Japanese regime in August 1945 runs like this:
The Bataan Death March
The Rape of Nanking
The Manilla Massacre
Experiments on Humans
This is an abbreviated list, but to those who claim that this current Republic is guilty of past crimes, and that those past crimes demand justice, this list is entirely sufficient to strike the Atomic Bombs from the moral case against us. Using internally consistent logic, of course, which is not often seen when debating such people. But the moral case is indeed present and accounted for.
The Practical Justification for dropping the bomb
On November 20, 1943, United States Marines hit the beach on Tarawa atoll, facing 3,600 Japanese and 1,200 (possibly forced) Korean laborers. Three days later, only 17 Japanese soldiers and 129 laborers were alive; the others had fought to the death. 1,000 Marines died, and another 2,000 were wounded.
On June 15, 1944, the US Marines moved closer to the Japanese home islands, invading the island of Saipan. This island would finally put the Japanese home islands within the range of the B-29 bombers, and was defended by nearly 30,000 Japanese. All but 900 of them died, 5,000 of who were civilians who killed themselves rather than be captured by the American Devils. 3,400 Marines died, and over 10,000 were wounded.
On September 15, 1944, US Marines stormed the beaches of Peleliu. Of the nearly 11,000 Japanese defenders, all but 200 fought to the death. 1,200 Marines died, and over 5,000 were wounded.
On February 19, 1945, the Marines landed on Iwo Jima's back sand beaches. Iwo was the only battle in the entire war where America suffered more casualties than did Japan. 27 Americans were awarded the Medal of Honor here, more than any other battle in history. Of the 22,000 Japanese defenders, only 200 survived the battle; a large number of these committed suicide, although a few hid out in the tunnels until finally captured. The last of these was captured in 1951. America lost almost 7,000 dead and nearly 20,000 wounded.
On April 1, 1945, American forces finally touched Japanese soil, in Okinawa, an outlying island. Not quite 100,000 Japanese combatants and civilians died or committed suicide; only 10,000 survived. America suffered over 12,000 dead and nearly 40,000 wounded.
This was the situation in the summer of 1945. Each battle that got closer to Japanese soil became more costly for both America and Japan. Japanese defenders were fanatically dangerous, mostly choosing to die to the man if it gave them a chance to bleed the American forces. Looking at an invasion not of isolated atolls but of Japan itself, President Truman asked for an estimate of casualties in the planned Operation Olympic to seize Kyushu and the subsequent Operation Coronet for the remainder of Japan.
The Joint Chiefs told him that based on what had been seen in Tarawa, Saipan, Peleliu, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa, that he could expect American casualties to be in the millions. The lowest estimate was 1.2 Million casualties, the highest was 4 million - including 800,000 dead.
Japanese casualties were not well estimated, but were assumed to be ten times the American figure. Half a million Purple Heart medals were ordered, so many that we have not manufactured any since; the United States still has around 100,000 of these in stock.
It is entirely plausible that none of the protesters you might encounter today will have the slightest idea about this: that two thirds of a century of American wars have not depleted the medals ordered for a portion of the invasion of Japan.
The wonder is not the Truman ordered the bombs dropped, the wonder is that he waited as long as he did. And that was the right decision. Millions survived the war because of it. People who do not know this, or who choose to ignore this are frivolous.
* Think I exaggerate? Where were these people on March 9?
UPDATE 7 August 2012 10:01: Not just lefties, it seems. Libertarians, too.