August 1945, and the Decision to Drop the BombTo the Editor:
Nicholas D. Kristof (column, Aug. 5) writes that modern Japanese scholarship "has bolstered" the "U.S. moral position" in the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But this is true only if one asks the wrong question and ignores the critical issue.
Of course, the Japanese military wanted to continue to fight; no one disputes this. Would it have been allowed to do so, however, once the impact of the Red Army's entrance into the war had been digested and had assurances been given to Emperor Hirohito (as was done in August 1945)?
Not in the judgment of American intelligence as early as April 1945 which is why the United States arranged for Russian agreement to enter the war in early August (until the atomic bomb gave it an alternative). And not in the judgment of other modern Japanese historians.
Not only was the Red Army likely to chew up what remained of Japan's best divisions in Manchuria (thereby hitting the military where it counted); an attack by the Soviet Union was seen as a mortal political threat to the entire imperial system.
The judgment of the vast majority of top American military leaders was that the bombings were unnecessary including (among many others), Generals Eisenhower, MacArthur, LeMay and Arnold, and Adm. William D. Leahy, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and chief of staff to the president.
Ogden, Quebec, Aug. 6, 2003
The writer is the author of "The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb."