Apologize For What?

There’s been quite a bit of speculation about what President Obama will say when he visits Hiroshima next week. Some say they think that the president should apologize. This report from ABC News should provide a taste:

A group representing Japanese survivors of U.S. atomic bombings urged President Barack Obama to hear their stories and apologize when he visits Hiroshima next week.

Two leaders of the Tokyo-based nationwide group told a news conference Thursday that many survivors still want an apology, though they have long avoided an outright demand for one out of fear that it would be counterproductive.

Toshiki Fujimori, a survivor of the Hiroshima atomic bombing, said he found it awkward to hear local and central government officials say they are not asking for an apology.

“I suspect there was a pressure (not to seek an apology) to create an atmosphere that would make it easier for Obama to visit Hiroshima,” Fujimori said, declining to identify where the pressure was coming from. “But many of the survivors don’t think they can do without an apology at all.”

Apologize for what? For saving the lives of millions of Japanese? That’s how many would have been killed in the invasion for which the Japanese were preparing. Not to mention the tens or even hundreds of thousands of Americans who would have been killed.

For many years I thought that our use of atomic weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki had been a ghastly mistake. Then I applied what I knew of the Japanese culture of the time and realized that we had, literally, no other way to communicate to the Japanese that the war was over and they had lost. Only the emperor could have told the Japanese people that and the only way of communicating that reality to the emperor was through demonstrations so graphic and awful they could not be denied.

James Gibney, writing at Bloomberg, arrives at the same conclusion:

After reading this book, though, I found it hard to argue with what Yamashita told me: “Had the bombs not been dropped, and had the Allies invaded as they were planning to, it would have been horrible beyond belief.” The numbers support him: As many as 150,000 civilians may have perished in the battle for Okinawa alone, for instance. Never mind the Allied servicemen who might have died — including perhaps my father, a battlefield interrogator in U.S. naval intelligence who went on to join a cadre of postwar Japanologists. Spare a thought for the Japanese boys and girls training to throw themselves under advancing U.S. tanks with bombs strapped to their chests.

I would hope that whatever the president says on his visit, he fixes his gaze upon the future rather than dwelling on the past. Reflexion and mourning are fine. But no apologies.


Here’s Harry Truman’s statement after the atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki:

The British, Chinese, and United States Governments have given the Japanese people adequate warning of what is in store for them. We have laid down the general terms on which they can surrender. Our warning went unheeded; our terms were rejected. Since then the Japanese have seen what our atomic bomb can do. They can foresee what it will do in the future.

The world will note that the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, a military base. That was because we wished in this first attack to avoid, insofar as possible, the killing of civilians. But that attack is only a warning of things to come. If Japan does not surrender, bombs will have to be dropped on her war industries and, unfortunately, thousands of civilian lives will be lost. I urge Japanese civilians to leave industrial cities immediately, and save themselves from destruction.

I realize the tragic significance of the atomic bomb.

Its production and its use were not lightly undertaken by this Government. But we knew that our enemies were on the search for it. We know now how close they were to finding it. And we knew the disaster which would come to this Nation, and to all peace-loving nations, to all civilization, if they had found it first.

That is why we felt compelled to undertake the long and uncertain and costly labor of discovery and production.

We won the race of discovery against the Germans.

Having found the bomb we have used it. We have used it against those who attacked us without warning at Pearl Harbor, against those who have starved and beaten and executed American prisoners of war, against those who have abandoned all pretense of obeying international laws of warfare. We have used it in order to shorten the agony of war, in order to save the lives of thousands and thousands of young Americans.

We shall continue to use it until we completely destroy Japan’s power to make war. Only a Japanese surrender will stop us.

Let’s have no more talk of apologies.

16 comments… add one
  • TastyBits Link

    The Japanese need to get their apology from their government for bombing Pearl Harbor and refusing to surrender. They are lucky there were only two bombs available.

    They need to admit that they were dishonorable, faithless, scoundrels who refused to engage the US in a proper declaration of war, and apologize for being filthy animals worthy of nothing more than being fried alive in the slowest possible way.

    Anybody who thinks these scumbags deserves an apology should learn about the Rape of Nanking and their other war atrocities, and if you still feel pity, I would have you buried alive in one their mass graves. You can think about it as you slowly suffocate with the rotted corpses of their victims.

  • PD Shaw Link

    I might go a little crazy if he apologizes. I’m not sure what that means, might have to vote for Trump. Why? I don’t know. Go crazy.

    My grandfather was being moved from the Burma theatre to Shanghai for what he was told was a planned invasion of Japan. Its pretty much an article of faith in my family that he probably would have died but for the atomic bomb. Probably speculative, but probably the view of most families of veterans that were enlisted at that time.

    The National WWII Museum makes the point several times in telling the story of the war in the Pacific that Japanese fighting styles and the willingness of civilians to kill themselves rather than face occupation were noted grimly as the war progressed. Often very effectively through the voices of horrified soldiers being interviewed. I found it refreshingly American.

  • steve Link

    If we were going to apologize, it should have been for the fire bombings. The Japanese have worse acts, including their biological warfare and live “autopsies” on the prisoners, in their past. Not sure that justifies the fire bombings. As to an apology, I predict that if he says anything short of “f#ck you all, you deserved it”, it will be declared an apology.


  • Jan Link

    Prediction: Obama will apologize. That’s what our president does best when he’s on an overseas gambit.

  • steve Link

    jan-Could you provide the words of even one apology?


  • Andy Link

    Like PD I might to a little crazy if there’s an actual apology. I don’t think there will be though.

  • ... Link

    Who gives a fuck? Any apology won’t mean anything other than that he is trying to create an even bigger shit storm than he did with the trannies a week or so ago. He’s trolling the nation.

  • jan Link


    Actions speak louder than words.

  • Gray Shambler Link

    Curious, the concept of total, righteous war with total surrender the only acceptable end, where did it go? What was It, seven, eight years later the same generals,(minus MacArthur) accepted a permanent cease fire with North Korea. Then not long after, we fought a half hearted, losing war with the tiny nation of North Vietnam.
    The argument could have been made by todays pols that, after Midway, the Japanese were contained. Iwo Jima could have been blockaded along with the mainland Japanese Islands, and no further loss of life was necessary.

    (food for thought, President Obama.)

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