To the editor:
As I read Cynthia Fisk’s recent letter to the editor about the troubling nature of drone use by the Obama administration, and America’s use of the atomic bomb to end hostilities with Japan in WW II, I found myself in agreement with much of what she had to say, especially in relation to the dropping of the atomic bombs on Nagasaki and Hiroshima.
Although she was criticized by several right-leaning, anonymous posters in the Times’ comment threads, the fact is, Ms. Fisk was correct when she stated in her letter that Japan was on the verge of surrender when the atomic bombs were dropped.
As historian David McCullough recounted in his biography of Harry Truman, the debate within the Truman administration over whether to drop the bombs or not was intense.
Within days of the bombs being dropped, the Japanese presented an offer of surrender that asked that Emperor Hirohito be allowed to remain on the Chrysanthemum Throne.
There were elements within the administration who wanted Truman to accept the offer, and there were hard liners, both in the administration and in Congress, who were demanding nothing less than unconditional surrender and the abdication of Hirohito. The debate was heated and, in the end, the hardliners prevailed.
Japan rejected the terms of “unconditional surrender” that forced Hirohito to abdicate and the bombing mission was set in motion. But here is the ironic part, after the bombs were dropped and Japan surrendered, Emperor Hirohito was allowed to stay on the throne after all.
That begs the question: If the sticking point late in the negotiations was whether or not Hirohito be forced to abdicate, and U.S. hardliners insisted that he do so in the name of ‘unconditional surrender,’ why then was he allowed to stay on the throne after the bombs were dropped and Japan surrendered?
The answer to that question will likely never be known, but it lends credibility to the assertions of some that the real motivation for dropping the bombs had more to do with sending Joseph Stalin a powerful message than it did ending the war in the Pacific theater.