The Hiroshima Myth, by John V. Denson

The decision to drop the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the Japanese surrender were both motivated more by the Soviet Union than the exigencies of warfare. Japan was on the verge of surrender anyway and was more afraid of a Soviet invasion than they were of more bombs. The U.S. was positioning itself for postwar domination; most of the military brass was against the bombings. From John V. Denson at

Every year during the first two weeks of August the mass news media and many politicians at the national level trot out the “patriotic” political myth that the dropping of the two atomic bombs on Japan in August of 1945 caused them to surrender, and thereby saved the lives of anywhere from five hundred thousand to 1 million American soldiers, who did not have to invade the islands. Opinion polls over the last fifty years show that American citizens overwhelmingly (between 80 and 90 percent) believe this false history which, of course, makes them feel better about killing hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians (mostly women and children) and saving American lives to accomplish the ending of the war.

The best book, in my opinion, to explode this myth is The Decision to Use the Bomb by Gar Alperovitz, because it not only explains the real reasons the bombs were dropped, but also gives a detailed history of how and why the myth was created that this slaughter of innocent civilians was justified, and therefore morally acceptable. The essential problem starts with President Franklin Roosevelt’s policy of unconditional surrender, which was reluctantly adopted by Churchill and Stalin, and which President Truman decided to adopt when he succeeded Roosevelt in April of 1945. Hanson Baldwin was the principal writer for the New York Times who covered World War II and he wrote an important book immediately after the war entitled Great Mistakes of the War. Baldwin concludes that the unconditional surrender policy

was perhaps the biggest political mistake of the war….Unconditional surrender was an open invitation to unconditional resistance; it discouraged opposition to Hitler, probably lengthened the war, cost us lives, and helped to lead to the present aborted peace.

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One response to “The Hiroshima Myth, by John V. Denson

  1. Bob: I am posting a brief reply which I had previously sent to the author of this piece. I copied you as well.
    Though we will perhaps disagree on the decision to use the bomb, we do not disagree on the suspicion and contempt in which we view politics, politicians, and their endless deceit and profound untrustworthiness.


    The “dropping” of context destroys actual knowledge and “unconditional” understanding.

    The unconditional surrender of an enemy with which you have come to war best-assures, that upon their surrender, the likelihood they will simply attempt to re-constitute themselves into the very society that was at war in the first place, will most-likely be extinguished. In this case, not war in the “first place” with America, but a brutal attempted conquest/subjugation of China.

    Yes, one can properly argue that their “expansion” of their war with China, via their attack on Pearl Harbor, was precipitated by our own political behavior, but once that war was begun, the important goal was to end it as quickly as possible!

    Collectively behaving “morally” (I would argue is logically impossible) in the chaos of the brutality, carnage, and injustice or war, is absurd. Such moral conscientiousness can only occur on an individual, “personal,” level. Unfortunately, given the intellectual state of our culture, a soldier displaying such courage, would likely be seen as a “traitor” and sanctimoniously punished.

    Returning to “context,” the context in which I pen this response is one coming from a moral understanding of what it means to be an American. Our founding was unprecedented. For the first time in history a “nation” was created with the moral recognition of individual responsibility and the rights that such responsibility demands.

    No, I am not speaking of the creation of the Constitution. The Constitution is merely an unprecedented and reasoned creation of “Robert’s Rules of Order” for governance. Nowhere in it can you find the word “rights” except in its first 10 Amendments, the Bill of Rights. No, the crucial context from which I have risen to speak is Jefferson’s unprecedented Declaration, wherein an individual’s right to life, liberty, property, and “pursuit of happiness,” are morally recognized!

    In closing I will make one inescapable point.

    The “unconditional surrender” of the authoritarian collectivist nations of Germany and Japan – both through the most expeditious means available, resulted in, among other things, neither of them returning (yet?) to the evil political tyrannies they had become!

    When viewing history, CONTEXT is perhaps the most-important aspect of reality one must assure. Failure to do so, for example, produces such obscenities as “The 1619 Project.”

    It also produces what has now become routine and intellectually “fashionable.” Attempting to condemn America for acting, at least with the prosecution of WWII, in a relatively rational manner.

    Condemnations made to seem credible through the dropping/distortion of context.

    Dave Walden


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