Sheen and Hiroshima

The dropping of an atomic bomb on Japan on this date in 1945 provides an opportunity to consider how the unthinkable so often becomes thinkable and doable in the context of competing goods rather than through a direct embrace of evil.

Photo of Bishop Fulton J. Sheen taken in October 1956. (ABC Radio/Wikipedia); right: Photo of the Hiroshima atom bomb cloud believed to have been taken about 30 minutes after detonation. (Honkawa Elementary School/Wikipedia)

These days there is no shortage of doomsayers. Many across the political and religious spectrum feel a profound sense of disease and uncertainty, even fear, about the present state of world affairs. Despite a shared sense of crisis, there is very little agreement on the source of this crisis. Those of a more conservative or traditional orientation often find the source in the great upheavals of the 1960s.

I would like to begin this month’s column with an observation by a traditional Catholic thinker reflecting on the 1960s in 1974, while these changes were still fresh:

See how much the world has changed? Now, what made it change? I think maybe we can pinpoint a date: 8:15 in the morning, the sixth of August, 1945. Can any of you recall what happened on that day? … it was the dropping of the bomb on Hiroshima in Japan. When we flew an American plane over this Japanese city and dropped the atomic bomb on it we blotted out boundaries. There was no longer a boundary between the civilian and the military, between the helper and the helped, between the wounded and the nurse and the doctor, between the living and the dead – for even the living who escaped the bomb were already half-dead. So we broke down boundaries and limits and from that time on the world has said ‘We want no one limiting me’. So that, you people have heard the song, you’ve sung it yourselves: ‘I gotta be me, I gotta be free’. We want no restraint, no boundaries, no limits. Have to do what I want to do. Now let’s analyse that for a moment. Is that happiness: I gotta be me, I’ve got to have my own identity?”1

The author of this reflection: Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen. I admit that despite my own sympathy for sweeping synthesis, the direct line from Hiroshima to cultural revolution seems at first glance a bit of a stretch. Still, entering the anniversary month of Hiroshima in a time of apparent crisis, it seems worth taking a second glance at Sheen’s provocative reflection.

The notion that actions taken during World War II sowed the seeds of our current discord is certainly counterintuitive. Across the range of possible positions in today’s culture wars, few would see the World War II era, the age of “the greatest generation,” as anything other than a time of unprecedented unity; moreover, Americans were united in the most just of all possible causes, the defeat of Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany. Catholics, lay and clerical, pledged their full support for “the Good War” and Catholic participation did much to integrate Catholics into the mainstream of American national life.

Long before Hiroshima, however, the undeniably just purpose of the war—the ad bellum—obscured what for Catholics should have been the deeply troubling nature of the conduct of the war—the in bello. A revolution in airplane technology had transformed air warfare from the romantic, mano a mano biplane dogfights of World War I into the massive bombing campaigns that gave a distinct and unprecedented character to conduct of the World War II. The practice, known at the time as “obliteration bombing,” targeted not soldiers or isolated military installations, but whole cities—which included “military” targets such as arms factories but also unavoidably the civilian populations surrounding those factories. Scholars such as David Bell see the rise of “total war” as early as the French Revolution, yet World War II saw a technological revolution in the efficiency with which civilian populations could be obliterated.

The indiscriminate slaughter of civilians had in fact been an accepted war policy for years prior to Hiroshima. Wilson D. Miscamble, C.S.C.’s The Most Controversial Decision: Truman, the Atomic Bombs and the Defeat of Japan (Cambridge University Press, 2011), is excellent history but oddly, or ironically, titled: Miscamble shows that in moral terms there was actually very little controversy over the decision to use the bombs once Truman and his staff were confident that they would actually work. Truman and most of his advisors saw the atomic bomb as simply a bigger, more destructive version of older bombs, still using TNT as a quantitative, rather than qualitative, point of comparison: “Little Boy,” the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, carried the destructive power of 15,000 tons of TNT. The only moral calculus guiding the decision to drop Little Boy (and later “Fat Man” on Nagasaki) was the belief that the bombs would save lives by forcing Japan to surrender, obviating the need for an invasion that would have cost many more lives than lost at Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined.

In 1947, then Msgr. Fulton J. Sheen likened such a utilitarian calculus to Hitler’s earlier justification for the bombing of Holland. True, by 1947, Sheen was not alone in his outrage and the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki had indeed become “the most controversial decision.” Several years later, the Oxford Catholic philosopher Elizabeth Anscombe famously protested the university’s decision grant Truman an honorary degree. Truman stood by his decision for the rest of his life, yet was deeply troubled by the loss of civilian life in the bombings. This response is on the one hand understandable, yet also curious: had not civilian casualties long been accepted as simply part of the nature of modern war? Had not the “conventional” firebombing of Tokyo killed more than the two atomic bombs combined? Perhaps Hiroshima and Nagasaki were simply a powerful symbol or synecdoche for all that had gone before, a transformation that could only be appreciated after the heat of the battle and the single-minded focus on victory had subsided.

Catholic theologians needed no such hindsight. In 1944, John C. Ford, S.J., published an article, “The Morality of Obliteration Bombing,” in the Jesuit journal Theological Studies. Ford assesses Allied policy with respect to the bombing of enemy cities and judges it nearly impossible to reconcile with traditional Catholic teaching on the taking of innocent life, understood as the lives of non-combatants. His argument is subtle and multi-facetted, much broader than a simple exercise in technical theology. He begins with the words of Allied leaders themselves and notes a dramatic change: in 1940, Churchill condemned German bombing of civilians as an “odious form of warfare”; by 1942, England had adopted the policy as their own and Churchill would go on to vow that there are “no lengths to violence to which we will not go.”

What was unthinkable had become thinkable and doable. The bombing continued even when evidence suggested that it was not significantly undermining the industrial capacity of Germany to make war. Once adopted, the practice found its rationale in revenge and the infliction of maximum human suffering. Allied leaders felt no need for moral or theological justification for their actions.

Catholics do need such justification and Ford goes on to consider possible moral justifications for Allied policy. First, by the principle of double effect, the slaughter of civilians could be excused as a secondary consequence of the morally legitimate act of targeting enemy factories; he ultimately rejects this as the proximity of civilians to factories and the nature of obliteration bombing render it impossible to speak of civilian deaths as a secondary effect. Second, by the principle of proportionality, the good achieved by the bombing (bringing a swift end to the war) outweighs the evil (civilian deaths); he rejects this as well, arguing both that there is no evidence that the bombing is shortening the war and that the good it may achieve is speculative while the evil it inflicts is real.

Many of Ford’s arguments would have been well known to his fellow moral theologians. Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of the article is the way in which Ford struggles with the clear disconnect between Allied policy and Catholic theology, at times dismissing possible defenses of Allied practice as mere sophistry, while at other times insisting on tremendous caution and restraint in making any final judgments that might force American Catholics to choose between their country and their faith. Ford was no pacifist; he was a patriotic Catholic American who identified the tragic choice facing Catholics but could never bring himself to make the choice himself, much less counsel others to do so.

Later in his life, he faced another tragic choice. As John McGreevy has shown in his informative Catholicism and American Freedom (W. W. Norton & Company, 2004), Ford was the leading defender of the Church’s teaching on artificial birth control in the decades leading up to Humanae Vitae; in this instance, facing tremendous social and political pressure for Catholics to go along with the rest of America by embracing contraception, Ford publicly and defiantly affirmed the Church’s teaching. Sadly, most American Catholics followed the precedent set by World War II-era patriotism.

I am not quite sure if the career of John Ford, S.J., proves Fulton Sheen’s link between Hiroshima and cultural revolution. It does, however, provide an opportunity to consider how the unthinkable so often becomes thinkable and doable in the context of competing goods rather than through a direct embrace of evil. I am certainly happy that the United States won the Second World War and did so without the tremendous loss of life—American, Japanese and Russian—that would have accompanied an invasion of Japan. At the same time, I am sad that this victory came through years of committing intrinsically evil acts.

In the face of the tragedy of the Second World War, perhaps we could have at least done some kind of public penance. August 6 could have become a day of national (or at the very least, Catholic) reparation for the sins of total war. It did not. It is also never too late, especially considering how the disciplining of Catholics who publicly violate Church teaching is so very much in the news these days. At the very least we can be thankful that the United States has not used nuclear weapons since the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Still, sanitized memories of the Good War led the United States to repeat its tragedy in the Cold War, often with the full support of American Catholics. In Vietnam, a comparatively “limited” war, the U.S. bombing tonnage exceeded that of the Pacific theater of World War II.

Endnote:

1 This quote and my later reference to Sheen come from Zac Alstin, “Horror of Limitless Freedom: The Moral Fallout of the Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki”.


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About Dr. Christopher Shannon 11 Articles
Dr. Christopher Shannon is a member of the History Department at Christendom College, where he interprets the narrative of Christian history from its foundations in the Old Testament and its heroic beginnings in the Church of the Martyrs, down through the ages to the challenges of the post-modern world. His books include Conspicuous Criticism: Tradition, the Individual, and Culture in Modern American Social Thought (Johns Hopkins, 1996), Bowery to Broadway: The American Irish in Classic Hollywood Cinema (University of Scranton Press, 2010), and with Christopher O. Blum, The Past as Pilgrimage: Narrative, Tradition and the Renewal of Catholic History (Christendom Press, 2014).

117 Comments

  1. The cause of the Allies was not “undeniably just”. War is not good guys vs. bad guys; it is a struggle for political power. We need to move beyond such adolescent thinking.

    • Sure. Nothing wrong with Hitler at all. Nothing wrong with Japan murdering 10 million Chinese and conquering half of Asia. Never oppose evil – that is adolescent thinking.

      • yes, it’s fine to make selective judgments about Hiroshima…as long as you can totally ignore all those Chinese tortured, murdered raped in just Nanking for example, the thousands of women and girls enslaved in “Comfort Women”brothels, the thousands tortured, killed, betrayed throughout Asia and the Pacific,the thousands starved, killed in slave labour on the Burma Thai railway…and if you can ignore the fact that it actually took Two bombs before the surrender…as the Emperor was so intransigent with Samurai mentality and prepared to arm children with sharpened sticks rather than surrender . Many, many lives were saved as prisoners & populace were not now able to be executed as the orders had previously been.Women were freed from forced prostitution.
        Adolescent wishful thinking doesn’t encompass reality unfortunately.
        Pace e bene, Frances Crawford

        • I sort of see you point. Seems reasonable sort of. I don’t see though how this justifies murdering of thousands of civilians. You should’ve endeavor explaining that part too. But ultimately, was it a Christian thing to do?

    • The “adolescent thinking” is provided by those who can not distinguish between principalities that launch regimes with crimes against humanity as their reason for existence and those who recognize their obligation to stop them.
      Returning to the matter at hand, the question of a monumental moral dilemma is assumed when the obligations to uncompromising sacrifice towards eradicating evil can also be acted upon in a manner that might minimize moral compromise.
      The allies had essentially defeated the Japanese Navy by the time the bombs were dropped and were close to being able to affect a sustained naval blockade on the entire nation of Japan, which would have brought about eventual capitulation. Japan was close to surrender prior to the bombing, and the allies knew it. The decision to drop the atomic bomb was never contingent upon avoiding a would be invasion but by finally ending a war that could have been ended with a patient sustained blockade that would require the noble sacrifice of time, maybe another year or two, that a war weary people never seem to generate.

    • ( Response to G. Poulin) I’m sorry for the condescending first line of my post to you last Friday: “You can’t possibly be serious.” (I asked to have it taken down and this website graciously did so.) Perhaps you are very serious about your comments. It’s important not to overlook evil behaviors of people who seek power. Hitler’s violent, anti-Jewish, anti-Christian, anti-humanitarian, fascist moral-doctrines are most certainly defined as evil. These actions are clearly what civilized societies, built on Judeo-Christian values, would define as those of a “bad guy”. Take ANY leader of a communist country who’s bought into the Marxist-Leninist philosophical model with its atheistic foundation and inherent, rampant human rights abuses, such as communist China, and ask any Chinese Catholic, Muslim Uighur, or even any Chinese woman who has been forcibly pulled out of her home in the middle of the night for a forced abortion and sterilization procedure if this was a mere struggle for political power and not a maniacal embracement of evil actions to attain “power”. Clearly, power can be attained by employing good actions or evil actions; it’s a moral choice. Therefore, it is clearly not “adolescent thinking” to ascribe “good guy/bad guy” labels to people who undertake morally clear, bad or good actions to achieve their goals. At this historical point, it appears to be common practice in liberal philosophy not to label clearly-bad intentions with negative descriptors (i.e.,”bad guy”) in order to avoid offending anyone, when in fact some leaders need to be called out for their evil actions for the sake of the common good of their country’s citizenry. This idea of “good guy/bad guy” and the attainment of power are not separate entities. Vladimir Lenin, the founder of communist Russia in 1917, believed in “any means necessary” to gain power, including violence against others. Through decades this communist Russian regime killed many millions in its lust for power. The antithesis of this viewpoint is from Jesus himself: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

  2. i believe that this whole “covid 19” is just a government scare tactic. many believe this but unfortunately there are too much into “big brother” to use common sense. wearing masks has been proven time and time again to be dangerous to wear as it is extremely unhealthy to be breathing in your same breath. many are getting sick because of it. the government knows about this but does nothing. it just keep pressuring people to wear them. in a way it is no different than when Hitler was running those concentration camps. the only difference is, instead of killing people off with gas they kill you off with masks. people need to wake up and stop acting like little lost sheep and use common sense. “big brother” is not GOD.

  3. The taking of an innocent life is murder for all time. Find another way to end wars. Paper cranes remind me of how much value was placed on the Japanese people’s lives. There is no rationale that justifies “Thou shall kill innocent people.” Aren’t they the reason for the fighting?

    • There were no innocent civilians in either Germany or Japan, so your argument is a straw man. Those “innocent civilians” raised the monsters who committed atrocities in Europe and Asia, and the cultures supported and encouraged those acts. You choose the behavior, you choose the consequences. The dropping of both bombs was unequivocally just from a moral standpoint. There is no reason to keep arguing about the obvious.

      • “There were no innocent civilians in either Germany or Japan”

        Because neither Germans nor Japanese begat children prior to 1945.

          • You made the rather bold truth-claim that “There were no innocent civilians in either Germany or Japan.”

            Your truth-claim is clearly false, if for no other reason than that you ignore the presence of children. And whether or not there were innocent civilians in Germany or Japan is obviously relevant.

      • Okay, if we follow your line of argument, it suggests Catholics did not raise a monster and are “innocent civilians” when they voted for Donald Trump as President of the USA. This is the President who played down the severity of Covid-19 which led to the death of more than 600,000 innocent lives, and did nothing to halt the invasion of Capital Hill by his naive supporters after he lost the election.

        • Parroting the DLEMM – Dominant Liberal Establishment Mass Media – narrative only exposes you as being obtuse.

        • We’re not talking about Trump. That’s a red herring fallacy. We’re talking about World War 2, not the current situation. Nice attempt at deflecting from the real issues tough 👎.

  4. It’s just a little ironic that those who so self rightlessly oppose the nuking of Heroshima are all in on the abortion holocaust. This minor detail is not even mentioned in the article. Just a little info, war from the beginning always involved civilians. As an example when Roman legions totally destroyed Jerusalem, including the massive slaughter of civilians, it was because they would not surrender. That approach was standard operating procedure then and essentially all wars.

    It is just an intellectual cop out to put blame on Truman. To continue WW2 with out the bomb would have had massive consequences.

    Our destructive current culture is not because of dropping the bomb on Hiroshima, no it is because through time way too many leaders in the Catholic Church do not care or are gutless in standing up against abortion, the core moral disease of the world.

    • To have continued the war without the bomb would have meant several million relatively innocent Japanese would have died in the final battle for their homeland. A few more million Japanese innocents – women and children – would have died because of lack of food and medicine and shelter during the fight. Victor Davis Hanson said that 250,000 Chinese were starving each month the war lasted, because food and medicine could not get to them. The butchers bill would have been many millions dead rather than the 250,000 that died in the bombings. Tell me, how could Catholic principles justify allowing many millions more die than a quick, sharp, short end to it all?
      When the entire situation is considered I suggest that Catholic principles would have supported the dropping of the bomb. I think the only way you can argue against it is by being incredibly theoretical and ignoring practical realities. Of course, philosophers enjoy living in a land where only the theoretical is considered. That is why we do not elect philosophers president. Imagine if Anscombe had been president at the time. Would we have been better off?

      • To obliterate the lives of civilians in two cities to save theoretical deaths later on was an example of doing evil to avoid evil. To do evil to avoid evil is not supported in Catholic moral teachings. There are at least two previously existing causes that weakened the moral outrage of the atom bombings. First, the Allies had taken to bombing cities, with massive losses of civilian lives. Second, the U.S. had created the atom bomb, and once we had it, there was a human motivation to want to use it, no matter what the consequences.

        • “To obliterate the lives of civilians in two cities to save theoretical deaths later on was an example of doing evil to avoid evil. To do evil to avoid evil is not supported in Catholic moral teachings.”
          So, since war is in itself an evil, albeit a justifiable evil per Augustine and Aquinas, it would have been more in keeping with Catholic principles to prolong the war by a year, suffer a million Operation Cornet Allied *deaths* – not casualties – plus 3-5 millions of mostly Japanese civilians *dead*, (children were being trained to charge American soldiers with sharpened bamboo pikes) and all the collateral deaths in Japanese-occupied territories Samton noted above. All to avoid using the nasty A-bomb and sacrificing 250K lives as opposed to all the previous. Of you doubt what I said simply read up on the Okinawa campaign. And no, the Japanese were emphatically not on the verge of surrender, as some agenda-driven revisionists have asserted.
          All sounds very doctrinally Catholic to me. I have in my youth spoken to veterans of the European Theater who were pretty damn relieved not to have boarded the troopships for the Pacific after V-E Day. Of course, all here, safe and snug and opinionated in the warm belly of bought and paid-for-with-blood free America, are welcome to pearl-clutch 70 years later.

          • The “agenda-driven revisionists”? The intercepted message of July 13, 1945, from Prime Minister Tojo:

            “His Majesty the Emperor, mindful of the fact that the present war daily brings evil and sacrifice upon the peoples of all belligerent powers, desires from his heart that it may be quickly terminated [….] so long as England and the United States insist upon unconditional surrender the Japanese Empire has not alternative but to fight on with all its strength for the honor and existence of the Motherland [….] It is the Emperor’s private intention to send Prince Konoye to Moscow as a Special Envoy with a letter from him containing the statements given above” (source: MAGIC [“intercepted cable messages”], No. 1205, July 13, 1945, Record Group 457, National Archives, cited in Alperovitz, p. 233).

            It is true that earlier peace feelers in Switzerland, Portugal and Vatican in the spring and summer lacked the same weight, but the cable to Russia was now an “official” move. The Vatican feelers had begun as early as January and involved the Japanese Minister Ken Harada and his assistants.

            Complicated and very fast-moving events, but did Truman know of the intercept? On July 18 he refers in his handwritten journal to the “telegram from Jap Emperor asking for peace” (ibid. 238).

          • Hi AK,
            I’m wondering if you are one and the same AK I met in the infamous Shameless a few years back….You, Margo, and Al met regularly to battle heretics, thieves, and other poseurs… How’s the flying been?? How’s your son?

            If you read this and are the same, please do me a favor. Gander around this site to read Kevin Walters and his replies to one Meiron. Then give your learned opinion, O most respected One.

    • Mike,
      I agree with you so much. You at least have the guts to say it. Let’s never stop fighting for innocent lives that never had the opportunity to see the light of day,or get the chance to comment on this article. Thank you Mike for all that you do in saving lives right from conception!!!

    • “It’s just a little ironic that those who so self rightlessly oppose the nuking of Heroshima are all in on the abortion holocaust.”

      Clearly not true, as there are plenty of Catholics (Abp Fulton Sheen, Anscombe, and many others) who believe that the nuking of Hiroshima and the killing of the unborn are objectively evil acts.

      • Point well taken, so will modify my comment and add as a modifier the words “way too many” to precede the word “those”. I have a high regard for Bishop Sheen but for him the draw the conclusion cited in this article is essentially wrong. To cite the bomb as the reason for U turn in our morals, culture and Catholic Church since WW2 is so way off the mark.

    • You know that not all who condemn the A-bomb attacks are “all-in” on abortion. Also, you do not have to be a pacifist do oppose indiscriminate fire bombings of cities. Let’s try to have a rational debate.

  5. Good outline of the developing bombing campaign of WW2, and the rather lonely voice of Father Ford in objecting to bombing directed at population centers. Certainly American bishops were not known to have objected to the bombing.

    I am not sure why the author threw in the last sentence – “In Vietnam, a comparatively “limited” war, the U.S. bombing tonnage exceeded that of the Pacific theater of WW2.” This is an example of something that can be true, but very misleading. These comparative numbers are used by some to indicate that we did more bombing damage in Vietnam than was done to Japan and Germany. This is far from the truth. Almost any history book of WW2 will have photos of the complete devastation of German and Japanese cities. There are no photos like that of Vietnam cities. So many of the bombing targets in Vietnam were “suspected truck parks under the jungle canopy, suspected ammunition dumps under the jungle canopy, and suspected troop concentrations under the jungle canopy around Khe Sanh.”

  6. While I appreciate the profound cautions about extreme measures taken to defeat an enemy, the author completely ignores the nature of the enemies in WWII. As much as Nazi Germany committed massive atrocities trainload by trainload, neighborhood by neighborhood, it pales in comparison to Japan in China, Indo-China and beyond. There was no stopping either of them. They were given repeated chances to surrender; instead they were determined to spread their genocidal campaigns even to the point of national suicide.

    Neither Truman nor Churchill had the luxury of hindsight or a definite knowledge of the future. They were faced with incredible and tragic realities that one can hardly appreciate in the comfort of a library or classroom. They weren’t preparing a lecture or writing a book, all neatly arranged and carefully edited.

    I not only give Truman and Churchill the benefit of the doubt, I cannot begin to imagine the burden of the moment each had to bear in real time.

    Thank God for them.

    • Points well summarized, but while Truman and Churchill “weren’t preparing a lecture or writing a book,” they were writing history, significantly in the use of mere words.

      There are two sides to the question whether Truman’s wartime slogan “Unconditional Surrender” (lifted from a single Civil War battle at Fort Donelson on the Tennessee-Kentucky border), retained in the Potsdam Declaration, prolonged the war with Japan (and earlier with Germany). Likely by many more months than the bombs are believed by many to have shortened it….

      Many voices urged Truman to clarify what the slogan did NOT mean as well as what it did mean. In the end, the sticking point for Japan was retention of the emperor in some capacity, a condition that was readily conceded only after the surrender. Instead, what if the Declaration had been “carefully edited?”

      For one, General Groves, head of the Manhattan Project which produced the bombs, had this to say: “I believe the average American understood full-well that the idea of unconditional surrender had prolonged the war in Europe and would undoubtedly prolong the war in the Pacific.”

      • Unconditional surrender was the appropriate and necessary requirement for the Axis powers. There is no historical evidence that either Germany or Japan were making peace overtures to the Allies. Japan would have continued fighting; the entire Pacific war made that unmistakably clear. Murderous, genocidal dictatorships don’t get to negotiate the terms of their surrender.

        Besides, history proves it was the right decision. When was the last time anyone worried about Germany or Japan?

        • 100%, Athanasius.
          And who do you think carried both vanquished enemies to stability and prosperity? It wasn’t the United Nations, that’s for sure. There are many nations on earth today begging for that kind of unconditional surrender.

          The context, the bigger picture – before and after the so-called “intrinsically evil” act – is not irrelevant to the issue that is sliced and diced in the sterile confines of academia.

        • Informed historians report tentative peace initiatives through Moscow and through the Vatican. How much weight to give to these actions is another matter. Alperovitz, for example (“The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb,” 1995), begins one of his commentaries, Chapter 2, with this:

          “Preliminary indications of Japanese diplomatic movement appeared as early as July and August 1944, after the loss of Saipan and the fall of the Tojo government. On August 11, under the heading ‘Japanese consider peace possibilities,’ War Department MAGIC reports of intercepted messages (designated ‘Eyes Only’ for the president and his closest advisers) pointed out: {etc. etc.].”

          The Japanese strategy from the beginning—a monumental miscalculation—had been to engage the United States in a more “gradual” war with a negotiated victory after a battlefield victory (replicating the earlier Japanese victory in the Russo-Japanese War of 1905, where the Russian Pacific fleet was first defeated and then the late-on-the-scene Baltic fleet was also defeated; all this with President Theodore Roosevelt serving as mediator and winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 1906). Instead, Japan found itself in a total war of attrition against a determined and vastly superior industrial machine.

          After Russia entered the war in the Far East (August 1945), Japan surely knew that efforts through Moscow were doomed.

          As for Germany, would the German hierarchy have been more vocal if the conflict had not been so readily simplified into a struggle for survival against “unconditional surrender”? Would the resistance toward Hitler within the High Command (beginning as early as 1938-40) have had more support and maneuvering room? Questions not so easily dismissed…

          • A lot of our wars after WWII have had endings that were less than unconditional surrender. An enemy that doesn’t accept defeat can easily become a festering insurgency. Look at Afghanistan and Iraq. West Germany and Japan became stable democracies in the post war period. Would this have been the case in the absence of unconditional surrender?

          • A gradual war? So Japan launches an unprovoked, all-out strike nearly 4,000 miles from home to cripple the US Navy in the Pacific, and, to boot, sends in a second wave later the same day. Alperovitz doesn’t speculate from demonstrable facts, as he himself admits. He theorizes, as was his custom, from ideology.

          • Response to AK and John Pfannenstiel:

            FIRST, I agree that Alperovitz has long held his opinions, but find him much more credible with his monumental 1995 publication, which includes 113 pages of microscopic footnotes referencing material declassified after the 50-year mandatory period (I do disagree with his exaggerated blaming of Truman as opposed to alternative arguments for “momentum” which he also supplies.)

            SECOND, my source for the Japanese strategy is not Alperovitz (nor does my punctuation–a separate paragraph–suggest this error). Instead, let me now cite for receptive readers “Vice Admiral Yoji Koda, JAPAN Wartime Self-Defense Force (ret.)” in his illuminating, lengthy and invited introduction to “Jim Bresnahan (editor), “Refighting the Pacific War: An Alternative History of World War II” [roundtable discussions of pivotal moments in the war], Naval Institute Press, 2011.

      • The Japanese military–the army in particular–continued to hold out for conditions unacceptable to the Allies, such as no occupation of Japan, war criminals to be tried by the Japanese themselves, etc–even after the August 6 bombing of Hiroshima. Following Truman’s public announcement that the bomb had been nuclear (which Japanese leaders already suspected), which reached Japan just after midnight August 7, Prime Minister Kantaro Suzuki, with the approval of cabinet secretary Hisatsune Sakomizu, successfully recruited Emperor Hirohito to personally order the cabinet to accept Allied terms. Continued wrangling within the leadership, including the army’s demand that Japanese scientists go to Hiroshima and personally verify that the effects were from an atomic bomb, delayed the surrender a few more days, allowing the August 9 bombing of Nagasaki. That’s when the leadership finally queried the Truman administration on whether the Allies would allow the emperor to retain office. The affirmative reply led to the final surrender. The atomic bomb undeniably provided the momentum for the emperor to break the cabinet deadlock and order his ministers to eschew demands that the Allies could not accept. Hirohito made specific mention of the bomb in his address to the Japanese public.

    • Well said.
      The critics are seventy five years and five thousand miles removed from the reality of battle. Critics nowhere near the arena and absent the fog of war. How very comfortable to judge from that position.

    • WWII began on the feast of the Immaculate Conception
      Tell that to the people of Great Britain, Poland, Manchuria, et al.

      and ended on the feast of the Assumption.
      Depends on what side of the international dateline one was on and hostilities continued to occur in limited scope even after the formal surrender of Japan on the deck of the Missouri on September 2nd.

      • But never fail to appreciate that God is a great dramatist. Even if it is meant only for Catholic reflection, there is always meaning intended by the confluence of events for which the hand of God is involved.

    • But never fail to appreciate that God is a great dramatist. Even if it is meant only for Catholic reflection, there is always meaning intended by the confluence of events for which the hand of God is involved.

  7. This article draws a straight line between the Hiroshima decision and the rootlessness of 1960s. A more decisive and precise connection might address not the “decision” to drop the bomb, but rather the more difficult decision to NOT just move things along–as with a pregnant teenage girl who is also steered by circumstances and by the momentum of a readily available technology of convenience.

    Not whether to DO something, but whether NOT to do something…

    Even at the time of Hiroshima, those who would NOT have dropped the bomb on Japan included Admirals Leahy, King, Halsey, and Nimitz, and Generals Eisenhower, Mac Arthur and even Spaatz of the Army air corps who refused to authorize the bomb drops until ordered in signed writing to do so. Part of the institutional problem was momentum combined with the compartmentalization of “decision” making. Insiders versus the others.

    As for the averted costs of a land invasion of Japan (marketed to the public in a 1946 article in Harper’s Magazine), the Strategic Bombing Survey (also 1946) concludes: “certainly prior to 31 December 1945, and in all probability prior to 1 November 1945, Japan would have surrendered even if the atomic bombs had not been dropped, even if Russia had not entered the war, and even if no invasion had been planned or contemplated.” (Based on a wealth of material declassified after the mandatory fifty years, a good read is Gar Alperovitz, “The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb,” Harper Collins, 1995).

    A comparison between the “decision” of 1945 with weighty decisions today might consider those who, for example, pen the dubia versus those who simply remain silent on the moral excesses of accompaniment and accommodation. Or those who promote mercy as inseparable from Veritatis Splendor (re moral absolutes) and those who do not. Or those who will teach “Eucharistic coherence” versus those insiders who, instead, would “decide” it best (several decades into the momentum of the 1960s) to just go with the flow without rocking the boat—just Bidin’ their time.

  8. From Donum Vitae “God alone is the Master of life from its beginning until its end; no one under any circumstances can claim for himself the right to destroy directly an innocent human life.”

    Abortion is an act of violence upon the innocent, but even today as Christians, do we not still condone violence? As the term ‘Just War’(Theory) continually shatters the reality of this teaching given by the Church.

    The teaching by the church on a Just War is nothing more than a minefield with regards to its application of justified murder. Can there be anything more perverse than giving the Holy Eucharist to opposing Christian soldiers just before going into battle against each other?

    Prior to Luke 22:36, we have Luke 22:35 Then Jesus asked them, “When I sent you out without purse or bag or sandals, did you lack anything?” “Nothing,” they answered”
    So, from now on we see the divide between the true believer/follower who trusts in God alone whereas those who rely on possessions need to protect them, as in
    Luke22;36 “But now, let him who has a purse take it, and likewise a bag. And let him who has no sword sell his mantle and buy one” and since the time of Christ, we see the continual escalation of violence.

    But of course, society at large must be governed by the rule of law and we need a police force to enact it, etc. But the use of Violence-‘an act of physical force that causes or is intended to cause harm’ was condemned by Christ when Peter struck the High Priest’s slave, cutting off his right ear He said, “Put away your sword,” Jesus then told him. “Those who use the sword will die by the sword”

    Before writing the poem below my initial thought prompting me to write it was, can anyone imagine Jesus Christ carrying a gun, never mind using one, dropping a bomb on civilians/soldiers from an aircraft, or sticking a bayonet into anyone, etc? I think not, as we see His disarming action when we approach Him on The Cross and when/if this disarming action is encountered in a real-life situation, it confronts our own values and for a Christian, it should induce humility.

    “Attach bayonets! courage and glory are the cry, do or die
    First over the Parapet
    John leads the Ferocious attack
    While opposing Hans reciprocates the advance to the death dance
    In crater of mud both stood
    Eye met eye one must die
    But who would hold true to the Christian creed they both knew?
    ‘To be’ the sign of the Cross,
    To ‘give’ without counting the cost
    Abandon bayonet, bowed head, bending knee, faith/love the other did see
    Worldly values gone the other in humility now holding the same song/pray.

    Two quotes from another poster on another site, in italics.
    “But it (Violence)must sometimes be used in self-defense” I am sure that we all would respond and defend a loved one or vulnerable person if they were been attacked and attempt to restrain the attacker within the confines of the law and violence could occur but it would not be premeditated. In English law, if a burglar entered your house and in attempting to restrain him, you killed him, you would not be guilty of murder but if you had kept a machete under the bed to use in the possibility of an attempted break-in and you killed the intruder with it, you would be prosecuted for murder as the occurrence would be premeditated. So yes, our intent is the key.

    “According to you we must let Hitler get away with his plan since we cannot fight back”

    Jesus tells us that His kingdom (Values) is not of this world. We are not to be alarmed by wars or rumors of them. And by implication partake in them. Terms such as collateral damage (definition: 1. during a war, the unintentional deaths and injuries of people who are not soldiers.) Are just a cover to justify the premeditated ‘ever-increasing violence of war.

    I personally believe that as Christians we cannot fight back with the weapons of the world for to do so is to contribute to the never-ending ‘increasing’ cycles of injustice within war, leading us further into the “Signs of the End of the Age” see Matt 24:1-28 but we can fight back with His teachings on love/truth/justice that are found within the Gospels when we also recognize/embrace the reality of The Cross (The Way the Truth and the life)

    Quote from another poster on this site “After nearly 2,000 chaotic, planet-destroying years of going our own way (always ‘In His Name’, of course!) isn’t it time, at last, for us to follow Jesus in truth?’

    kevin your brother
    In Christ

    • “Can there be anything more perverse than giving the Holy Eucharist to opposing Christian soldiers just before going into battle against each other?”

      Not giving Holy Eucharist, a Viaticum, to Christian soldiers would be more perverse.

      • Thank you Meiron for your comment Not giving Holy Eucharist, a Viaticum, to Christian soldiers, would be more perverse”

        Perverse- definition is – turned away from what is right or good; corrupt.

        Here are some similar responses to yours in italics given under another article with my responses which demonstrate Perversion definition- alter (something) from its original course, meaning, or state to a distortion or corruption of what was first intended:

        “Is the individual on either side to be denied salvation?

        Salvation comes from serving a lively conscience, reception of the Holy Eucharist should enliven it, as Christians, we serve God first.

        “Only God reads the individual’s hearts. So yes, combatants on either side should be given Communion and the Sacraments”

        By giving the Holy Eucharist to a combatant on both sides just before going into battle is to deaden that man’s conscience in relation to the teachings of Jesus Christ the King of Peace, Love, and Justice.

        “Soldiers are not always able to discern what it is exactly all about”

        Knowing and giving the Holy Eucharist by the ordained ministry is to collude with that ignorance by condoning it, in effect, they are propagating the violence of War between Christians. You may not see this as being perverse, I do.

        “There are many complexities to war. So, the individual combatant is not always aware nor capable of discerning what is actually happening”

        Yes as many complexities (Crimes of violence) are associated with war while combatants and military personal often say ” We were just following orders” But our Christian faith demands more of us, as our consciences must serve justice.

        “We are not pacifists as other sects are”

        The first recorded conscientious objector was Maximilianus, conscripted into the Roman Army in the year 295, but “told the Proconsul in Numidia that because of his religious convictions he could not serve in the military”. He was executed for this and was later canonized as Saint Maximilian.

        We all walk in our fallen nature, nevertheless, I am sure that throughout the ages many Christians have gone into battle on both sides thinking that they are doing God’s will aided and abetted by a worldly hierarchical church.

        So “Can there be anything more perverse/corrupting than giving the Holy Eucharist to opposing Christian soldiers ‘just before’ going into battle against each other?”

        I think not, to think otherwise is to hold the teachings of the crucified Christ in contempt.

        kevin your brother
        In Christ

        • You explain the moral and religious points perfectly. I agree a million percent Kevin, how could anyone disagree with the facts you present? Bless you always.

          • Thank you, Eileen, for your encouraging comment, it is good to have someone openly agree with what I am stating.

            kevin your brother
            In Christ

  9. I think part of the problem here is an incorrect application of Catholic principles. If I got this right, just war theory allows for proportional efforts to defeat an enemy. The atomic bombing was proportional, when ALL the facts about the war were considered. But I think sometimes philosophers apply moral standards meant to apply to personal conduct, not the conduct of nations. Since Just War theory is the thing that applies to wars, they should apply that.

    Yes, the A bomb was proportional. Since Japan had killed 10-15 million Chinese alone, not to mention the grisly murders of civilians in other asian countries, dropping a bomb to kill a few hundred thousand civilians AND STOP THE WAR was surely proportional. It is estimated that literally hundreds of thousands of people were dying all over Asia as long as the war lasted, because food and medical supplies could not get to people in the Philippines, China, Vietnam, etc. Those innocent civilian lives have to be considered against the Japanese civilians as well. And Japanese civilians were not entirely innocent, they were supporting their country’s wars of conquest.
    I think the problem comes when Catholics try to apply Catholic moral standards designed to apply to personal moral conduct, instead of Just War principles. When there is a war on, I would imagine that Just War principles apply, not standard personal moral standards.
    Of course, civilian casualties should be avoided, but the question is how can you do that and still win a war, a war which becomes necessary because two unbelievably evil and brutal regimes threaten the existence of entire civilizations.

    • Would St. John Paul II agree?

      But as part of the effort to work out such a rational morality (for this reason it is sometimes called an “autonomous morality” ) there exist false solutions, linked in particular to an inadequate understanding of the object of moral action. Some authors do not take into sufficient consideration the fact that the will is involved in the concrete choices which it makes: these choices are a condition of its moral goodness and its being ordered to the ultimate end of the person. Others are inspired by a notion of freedom which prescinds from the actual conditions of its exercise, from its objective reference to the truth about the good, and from its determination through choices of concrete kinds of behaviour. According to these theories, free will would neither be morally subjected to specific obligations nor shaped by its choices, while nonetheless still remaining responsible for its own acts and for their consequences. This “teleologism”, as a method for discovering the moral norm, can thus be called — according to terminology and approaches imported from different currents of thought — “consequentialism” or “proportionalism”. The former claims to draw the criteria of the rightness of a given way of acting solely from a calculation of foreseeable consequences deriving from a given choice. The latter, by weighing the various values and goods being sought, focuses rather on the proportion acknowledged between the good and bad effects of that choice, with a view to the “greater good” or “lesser evil” actually possible in a particular situation.

      The teleological ethical theories (proportionalism, consequentialism), while acknowledging that moral values are indicated by reason and by Revelation, maintain that it is never possible to formulate an absolute prohibition of particular kinds of behaviour which would be in conflict, in every circumstance and in every culture, with those values. The acting subject would indeed be responsible for attaining the values pursued, but in two ways: the values or goods involved in a human act would be, from one viewpoint, of the moral order (in relation to properly moral values, such as love of God and neighbour, justice, etc.) and, from another viewpoint, of the pre-moral order, which some term non-moral, physical or ontic (in relation to the advantages and disadvantages accruing both to the agent and to all other persons possibly involved, such as, for example, health or its endangerment, physical integrity, life, death, loss of material goods, etc.). In a world where goodness is always mixed with evil, and every good effect linked to other evil effects, the morality of an act would be judged in two different ways: its moral “goodness” would be judged on the basis of the subject’s intention in reference to moral goods, and its “rightness” on the basis of a consideration of its foreseeable effects or consequences and of their proportion. Consequently, concrete kinds of behaviour could be described as “right” or “wrong”, without it being thereby possible to judge as morally “good” or “bad” the will of the person choosing them. In this way, an act which, by contradicting a universal negative norm, directly violates goods considered as “pre-moral” could be qualified as morally acceptable if the intention of the subject is focused, in accordance with a “responsible” assessment of the goods involved in the concrete action, on the moral value judged to be decisive in the situation.

      The evaluation of the consequences of the action, based on the proportion between the act and its effects and between the effects themselves, would regard only the pre-moral order. The moral specificity of acts, that is their goodness or evil, would be determined exclusively by the faithfulness of the person to the highest values of charity and prudence, without this faithfulness necessarily being incompatible with choices contrary to certain particular moral precepts. Even when grave matter is concerned, these precepts should be considered as operative norms which are always relative and open to exceptions.

      In this view, deliberate consent to certain kinds of behaviour declared illicit by traditional moral theology would not imply an objective moral evil. (Veritatis Splendor, 75)

      • Worth pondering is Mr George Weigle’s support and advocacy, citing Just War Theory, for the invasion of Iraq. Especially so given the End of the Cold War and end of communism in the former USSR and his commitment to fighting the evil of Communism as justification for his many narratives. Why indeed continue his advocacy for war as what seems to be an integral aspect of his following of Jesus? This begs the question, who is Jesus?

  10. The bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were the first uses of “weapons of mass destruction” (WMD). Also it was never reckoned in the aftermath whether the leaders who discerned and made the decision for this obliteration bombing were in one way influenced by their anti-Catholicism because these cities were, and even today, the hubs of Catholicism in Japan where the majority of Japanese Catholics were concentrated.

    • Hiroshima and Nagasaki were legitimate war targets. Two of the mightiest super battleships of the Imperial Japanese Navy were built in these cities. The Yamato was built in Hiroshima, and her sister ship the Musashi was built in Nagasaki. These cities were very much involved with the Japanese war effort. Nagasaki was the backup target, the prime target of Kokura was clouded over during the second bombing run.

      • Obviously Truman must have specifically instructed Tibbets to pick the Irish, Catholic Charles Sweeney to pilot Bockscar; plan on loitering above Yakushima for 30 minutes longer than scheduled waiting for The Big Stink to arrive, arrange for the primary target Kokura to be obscured by smoke, feign three attempts to locate the primary target, divert to Nagasaki, install a faulty fuel pump and have two of the engines shutdown due to fuel starvation during the emergency landing on Okinawa.

        Your hypothesis is neutered by reality.

  11. With all due respect to the saintly Bishop Sheen, his analysis is flawed.

    The bombing of Hiroshima and Nakasaki were terminal acts of war capable of being ordered directly and immediately to the pacification of an aggressor, in terms of their effect in persuading the Emperor and government to comply with the ultimatum given in advance. As such, the object of the act was good, if reasonably anticipated and willed by President Trueman and subject to the proportionality test. The act of itself claimed jus ad bellum and, if claim successful, did not need jus in bello.

    The proportionality test used in English courts in the human rights context runs as follows:

    (1) whether the objective of the measure [pacification of an aggressor] is sufficiently important to justify the limitation of a protected right,

    (2) whether the measure is rationally connected to the objective,

    (3) whether a less intrusive measure could have been used without unacceptably compromising the achievement of the objective, and

    (4) whether, balancing the severity of the measure’s effects on the rights of the persons to whom it applies against the importance of the objective, to the extent that the measure will contribute to its achievement, the former outweighs the latter…. In essence, the question at step four is whether the impact of the rights infringement is disproportionate to the likely benefit of the impugned measure.

    The proportionality test in the present case will take account of the urgency of pacifying the aggressor, given the unprecedented cost already incurred by a war that had claimed 60 million lives and wrought devastation on a scale hitherto unknown in history.

  12. Growing up in the 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s; I would disagree that the atomic bombing caused a cultural revolution. The 40’s were a regrowth of economy and stabilization. The rest of the world’s economy was in disarray, and our exports were valuable to them. The 50’s thrived from this, and saw an economic expansion from the cities to the suburbs. In the 60’s, social thought injections by the teaching establishment and media, created a new societal way of thinking. The 60’s were the most dynamic decade of change in our history (especially 1968). War is hell, but at times, is the lesser of 2 evils. Bombing today is computer controlled with much fewer residual civilian casualties.

  13. Hello i would like to say congratulations to the Dr. Shannon for his Stunning article.
    I can not be in favor that United States (I am From Spain for This reason i give a different perspective of This topic) droped the atomic bomb over Hiroshima and Nagasaki especially Nagasaki. I have never chosen This City for being bombed because It is a City with more percentages of Catholics somebody think that the Masonics, and the secret societies chose Nagasaki for destroying the Catholicism of Japan. Also in my opinion It was a Big mistake to get weak to Japan and not having in the Pacific a counterpower against China (we could not know in 1945 that China would Fall in the hands of communism), however in This case i would like to do the Devil Advocate. One of the reasons to throw the bomb was to save a lot of loves of american soldiers. A part of Hiroshima, and Nagasaki we can tell the bombing of Hamburg, and Desde by the English without we must account two factors the Axis was more Evil, besides in This case there is not doubt that they are the responsable of the war. Japan had fallen in the hands of National Dictatorship. They are ready to die until the Last man. This thing would have costed a lot of lives of japanese and american soldiers and other thing worst that Soviet Union had entered in Japan. Stalin wanted more. The russian people would have raped japanese in Manchuria and Stalin wanted a piece of the Cake. Might United States to have denied to his Ally? We remind that Roosevelt gave the half of Europe among them Poland that It was the case of the war. Imagine that United States and the Soviet Union had won. What does It happen with Japan? Very possibly It had been the end of the Emperor, and Japan It would have been divided in two parts and One part would have given to the Soviet Union. We think in the gulags and in the deads that there would be on the russian part of Japan. We would have to get free more zones.
    I am a lover of the alternate history the Uchronia Cyril M. Kornbluth the author of Space Merchant would write a Story that It would have happened that It would happen if United States had not created the atomic bomb and japanese and germans had won the war. Killing fields in United States to the jews and the opposite to the Axis. For This reason i against but the things It could be much worst.

  14. Turn the other cheek is an idealized metaphor. It is not intended to encourage one to be a willing victim when an amoral and violent military/political regime attempts to murder you, your family, and destroy your country. Such were the Japanese and Germans if WWII. The history books are replete with their atrocities ( rape of Nanking, concentration camps, starvation and murder of prisoners, etc) These were deliberate decisions to murder those who posed no possible threat. Had these regimes won the war, these atrocities would have paled in comparison to what came next. Hiroshima put an end to their ambitions and saved the world from future unimaginable nightmares of horror. The collateral damage of the death of their citizens is on THEIR head. As well it should be. I hate the phony crocodile tears of revisionist history. The truth is the use of those two bombs have protected the US for the last
    80 years. Hand wringers who wish to be willing victims of the naked aggression of bad actor nations should be grateful our country is run by those who have a spine and are capable of making hard and pragmatic military decisions. Which does not include going willingly to slaughter. Aggressive nations take note. If attacked, we will find you, no matter how long it takes.

    • Some things to ponder for those inspired by the sermon on the mount who make it their aim to further the Kingdom of Heaven on this Earth in our time. We have but one life to live and make it count for the Kingdom of Heaven individually and corporately as the Body of Christ.

      LJ you write:
      “Turn the other cheek is an idealized metaphor. It is not intended to encourage one to be a willing victim when an amoral and violent military/political regime attempts to murder you, your family, and destroy your country. Such were the Japanese and Germans if WWII.”

      Such was the CIA generated coup in Chille that overthrew a democratically elected Govt to install Pinochet was it not? Such was the American – British overthrow of Mossadeq, Iran’s Prime Minister in 1953 was it not?
      [ Ervand Abrahamian.
      https://www.jstor.org/stable/40403895
      The New York Times recently leaked a CIA report on the 1953 American-British overthrow of Mossadeq, Iran’s Prime Minister. It billed the report as a secret history of the secret coup, and treated it as an invaluable substitute for the U. S. files that remain inaccessible. But a reconstruction of the coup from other sources, especially from die archives of the British Foreign Office, indicates that this report is highly sanitized. It glosses over such sensitive issues as the crucial participation of the U. S. ambassador in the actual overthrow; the role of U. S. military advisers; the harnessing of local Nazis and Muslim terrorists; and the use of assassinations to destabilize the government. What is more, it places the coup in the context the Cold War rather than that of the Anglo-Iranian oil crisis—a classic case of nationalism clashing with imperialism in the Third World.”

      It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a historian to gain access to the CIA archives on the 1953 coup in Iran ]
      ….and then in the present era, the Invasion of Iraq and the popular use of the toxic terminology of Smart Bombs and Collateral Damage! When and in what ” negotiated” terms of agreement will this clearly established and chartered coarse end??? Next China?

      Do you think God is American and would take your side in these foreign escapades of your nation? Who do you serve? God or Nation? Who is the arbiter of your moral compass? American centric world view or The Word of God? All i am suggesting is a thorough self examination and an authentic uncompromising search for Truth in these matters. You individually are responsible for how you conduct the search. Do not hijack and rationalise The Word of God for your own nationalistic aims and objectives.
      Perhaps it is because I am from Australia and objectivity is aided by the cultural distance from American myopia? How does history inform your present outlook?

  15. We can argue endlessly about the morality of Hiroshima or even the fire bombing by the British of Dresden, or Japan’s rape of Nanking, and needless to mention Nazi German genocidal policy in death camps and indiscriminately in occupied Slavic territories. We may compare God’s command for Joshua to annihilate the citizenry of Jericho, and for Saul to destroy Amalekite people, Amalekite cattle, even Amalekite dogs. God had his rationale to preserve the chosen people from deadly idolatry to which many Jews later in contact with Canaanites adopted and began immolating their own sons and daughters to Baal. Bishop Sheen was right in principle, although at the time it was safely assumed the less violent option of blockade would have cost millions of Japanese lives due to starvation and suicide. Considering their ferocity defending Iwo Jima and Okinawa we didn’t, with the intelligence presumably available [some assume otherwise] we didn’t have any truly clear ethical options. What brings war is evil, if we base our views on the theological history of wars in ancient Israel. Rather than assume Dr Christopher Shannon’s pious advice for a Transfiguration Day of penance I would advise us all to do penance for our personal sinfulness. Besides doing penitential reparation for WWII bombings and atrocities reminds me of BLM propaganda and reparation for slavery, the penitential guilt reparation preached by Critical Race Theorists. Collective guilt doesn’t buy salvation or a cup of coffee, although collective penance and reparation for our personal sins might well achieve that, and a cup of guilt free coffee.

  16. “Every act of war directed to the indiscriminate destruction of whole cities or vast areas with their inhabitants is a crime against God and man, which merits firm and unequivocal condemnation.” (Gaudium Et Spes (80). This statement from Vatican II is either true or it isn’t. It is either the teaching of our Church or it isn’t. It does seem to be the Church’s teaching.
    Reading through the above comments, it looks like some accept it and some don’t.

    • The statement applies to acts of war where the sole or the chosen effect of the act is the killing of civilians; or where the act otherwise good in its object has a disproportionate evil effect; or where the good effect is obtained through the evil effect.

    • Perhaps Crusader, some are saying like myself in principle they agree with Bishop Sheen and Gaudium et Spes, and similarly realize in mortal combat it doesn’t always work out perfectly. I’ve counselled VietNam vets who suffered those variable effects [some were suicidal] when fire had to called on positions in populated towns otherwise their units wouldn’t have survived. Truman is said to have procrastinated for some days until pressure from advisors and the need to decide leaned on him to give sanction for the bombings. Personally, I was and remain against the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima, Nagasaki.

      • Well Father, its fortunate for us you were not in charge of that decision, for then there is an excellent chance we’d be speaking Japanese right now. The Germans were struggling toward the end of the war as they had overextended their military effort and pushed onto too many fronts, getting hammered in the snows of Russia. That was not the case with the Japanese, who got a leg up in the war by slaughtering our naval forces at Pearl Harbor in an unprovoked attack. There were several days between Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The question really is, why did they not surrender at once, after they had seen the devastation of the first bomb? That decision, and its consequences, again is on their head, not ours. For that matter you could be speaking Russian or even Chinese at this point. All that kept those communist regimes from attacking us at some point was absolute knowledge of the consequence. Some nations might threaten the use of the bomb. We in fact have made the decision to use it. That one time decision has arguably prevented its further use, even by other nations, to this point, given its devastating impact and the probability of retaliation. Lastly, had the Japanese, Russians, Chinese or Germans overcome the US conventional war effort, its almost a certainty the church would have been eradicated or driven well underground.The first three nations were actively hostile to Christianity, and the superficially Christian Germans had allowed Naziism to prevail the the point of killing priests in the concentration camps. In raising my two sons I often told them I never wanted to discover they were the first to strike a blow at another person. However I suggested that if someone struck THEM first, that they strike back hard enough to insure the attacker would never wish to make another attempt. Real life is very different from wishful thinking. Cruel, immoral and bad people do exist and must be fought with every means at hand. That is true whether personally, or on the world stage.

        • At that stage of the war Japan’s offensive capacity dismantled US Air Force, Navy in complete control that was virtually impossible. Also, as a priest I couldn’t and would not want to be in that position. If you read my comments above closely, you should understand that there are actions that occur during conflict throughout history that don’t fall into neat moral patterns of right and wrong. And also that in reference to the history of conflict in ancient Israel and God’s admonitions to its warrior leaders.

          • Of course there are actions that don’t fall into neat patterns. Thats why hindsight is 20/20 and its easy to say from a safe position decades later you do not agree with the decision to have bombed those cities.The alternative was invasion of the Japanese islands. Hand to hand combat. Given that Japanese soldiers were still crawling out of bunkers on the Philippines 20 or more years after the war had ended tells you how much violent combat would occur, and how many Americans would die. In a war, you save your own people first. Period. That is what any good leader would do.The Japanese reaped what they sowed. They attacked Pearl Harbor and were responsible for the deaths of thousands of US soldiers. I am at pains to remind you we were NOT at war with them at that time. Essentially in that situation, those murdered American sailors were effectively civilians at that point, minding their own business. Not a legitimate target.Any nation that presumes to begin a war needs to understand that some nations will not go quickly to their demise. Not without taking a lot of the enemy with them. War is costly in many ways.It is not entirely a bad thing. Knowledge of those real costs has most certainly prevented many other wars.

      • Father Morello, what is your evaluation of my approach (above) to determining the object of a human act: it is to be determined in terms of the reasonably anticipated effect of the act chosen by the agent?

        It’s the best I can do in application of Veritatis Splendor #86, though I can’t help regretting that Pope St John Paul II didn’t explain more fully.

        • Michael in a moral act its the intention, the circumstances, and the object of the act that must all be good for the act to be good. The effect must be ordered to a good end. Although because effects of acts are not always predictable effect does not determine the good or evil of the act. For example, in military jargon collateral damage. I believe regards the Nagasaki bombing the original target was the city’s industrial center but weather conditions caused misdirection. For Aquinas as well as John Paul II what ultimately determines the morality of the act is what the act itself does, the object. So if a nuclear bombing was intended 1 [intention] to end the war 2 [the war the circumstances], the bombing of a civilian target the 3 [object of the act itself], the killing of large numbers of civilians would have to be judged immoral. The effect was a forgone conclusion. If you’d like further clarity don’t hesitate.

          • You say that the morality of the act depends on what the act itself does. My point is that an act which has not yet been committed but which is being contemplated must be evaluated in terms of what the agent reasonably anticipates it will do. In English public law we have a standard of reasonableness called the ‘Wednesbury’ standard: a challenge to an official act on this ground will fail unless the act could not have been done by a reasonable person acting reasonably.

            One of the effects of the atom bomb was the killing of large numbers of civilians. If that was the sole effect which a reasonable person acting reasonably could have anticipated in advance, then that was the object of the act.

            What if President Truman had reasonably anticipated that the use of the bomb would have the effect (independently of the kinetic effect of the weapon) of persuading the Emperor and government of Japan to capitulate? As long as he chose that effect only, then the object of the act is the pacification of an aggressor and he would be free of moral guilt, subject only to a proportionality test.

          • Michael, anticipated effect as you describe is relative to the intent or internal object of the will. The effect is what actually occurs. The object of an act differs. For example, in an act there are two objects of the will, the interior object, and the external object that is the choice of act to fulfill the interior object of the will.

          • Responding to August 8 2021 at 1:42. So the internal object of the will determines the morality of an act in a context of double effect?

            Pope John Paul II in Veritatis Splendor states at 78: “By the object of a given moral act, then, one cannot mean a process or an event of the merely physical order, to be assessed on the basis of its ability to bring about a given state of affairs in the outside world. Rather, that object is the proximate end of a deliberate decision which determines the act of willing on the part of the acting person. Consequently, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches, “there are certain specific kinds of behaviour that are always wrong to choose, because choosing them involves a disorder of the will, that is, a moral evil”. . . The reason why a good intention is not itself sufficient, but a correct choice of actions is also needed, is that the human act depends on its object, whether that object is capable or not of being ordered to God, to the One who “alone is good”, and thus brings about the perfection of the person. An act is therefore good if its object is in conformity with the good of the person with respect for the goods morally relevant for him.”

            This is the part of the Encyclical that I find frustrating, as the Pope doesn’t explain further how practically to determine what the object of an act is.

            In discussing the principle of double effect, the following four conditions must be met.

            The first is that the act itself must be morally good in its object. This condition is met by definition where an act has two effects, one of which is good. The second is that only the good effect is to be chosen.

            The third condition is that the good effect must not be brought about by the evil effect: in other words, the nexus between the two effects must not be such as to reduce the good effect to a mere consequence of the act. This condition pertains because, where this condition is not met, there is only a single evil effect and not a double effect.

            The fourth condition is that the proportionality test must be satisfied.

            The criterion that the Pope offers is that the object of a human act must be capable of being ordered to God. So, was the use of the atom bomb capable of being ordered to God by being ordered to the good of peace in the defeat of an aggressor? That would depend on the persuasive effect of the act on the Emperor and government of Japan.

          • Furthermore Michael, it’s quite significant that English Law as practiced in Britain’s courts today [per your example] makes an argument for liceity of an action the object of which is to directly destroy large residential areas – that is based on proportionalism. That is whether a good, here the proposed good effect outweighs the evil effect of the act. That argument [proportionalism] was repudiated as immoral by John Paul II in Veritatis Splendor. For example, as you diagrammed the intended good effect [a proposed effect is actually the intention of the act] of ending the war was thought proportional to an unintended evil effect, the killing of civilians. Your example is a form of double effect [whereas in medical ethics a surgeon may licitly amputate a gangrenous foot to save a life he cannot kill to save a life as in abortion]. Catholic moral doctrine holds that the good or evil of the act is determined by what the act is actually designed to do – destroy large residential civilian areas. The principle is ancient, that an evil means to the end cannot justify a good end.

          • Michael as to your response Aug 8 “Pope John Paul II in Veritatis Splendor states at 78” he’s correct, an act isn’t moral or immoral solely on its physicality. For example, I may desire relations with a beautiful woman, the act itself physical relations is a good. Although as a priest I violate my vows. A layman may do the same, although the beautiful woman if knowingly married then both commit a willful act of adultery. And if not married they both commit the sin of fornication. We must engage in the physical act to commit these sins. It’s impossible to base morality on intent alone. A falsehood that has led to many of the sins committed in our world.

          • This again illustrates the frustrating gap I identified in Pope John Paul’s discussion of how to determine the object of a human act. If a human act is designed to have only an evil effect, then it takes its description from that effect.

            If it has two effects, one good, the other evil, then its object is whichever one is chosen by the will. At #79 of VS, Pope John Paul II states that “The primary and decisive element for judgement is the object of the human act, which establishes whether it is capable of being ordered to the good and to the ultimate end, which is God.”

            Now, it is possible that President Truman believed in good faith that his act of ordering the use of the atom bomb was designed directly and immediately to effect the capitulation of the government of an aggressor, and that he willed only this effect, though he knew that it would obviously have the evil effect of killing large numbers of civilians. That belief may have been correct or mistaken, but as long as he held it in good faith he would have incurred no moral guilt arising from the object of the act as it was in itself.

            A person is to be assessed for moral innocence or guilt in relation to his own reasonable determination of the object of his anticipated act:

            “Is the act which I am about to commit capable of being ordered to the end of peace as to its immediate effect, and not merely as to its remote consequence?”

            If President Truman could honestly answer “yes” to that question, then subjectively he would be free of guilt. On the facts of history as they turned out to be, the use of the atom bombs DID have that effect.

            Once we’re past that hurdle, then and only then can we proceed to an evaluation of proportionality.

          • Allow me to end a worthy discussion Michael with the premise of Saint Thomas Aquinas, that ethics is not determined solely on intent, rather ultimately on what we do.

          • For edification of the reader who followed the reasoning of the discussion on the object of a moral act, a pronouncedly vital subject [needless to say relative to nuclear bombing of civilian targets] to which, if I may offer the following: Aquinas uses the Latin ea quae sunt ad finem [those things that are for the end] to distinguish the means to the end from the intent in a moral act. The object of the act is the materia circa quam, not the actual matter Aquinas says [in agreement with John Paul II Veritatis Splendor] rather what the act is about. In other words what the act does. Aquinas always correctly emphasizes it’s that external object of the will, the choice of act that determines the moral good or evil in ethics.

  17. Hmm.Did you know that until last year the appointment calendar published by Liturgy Training Publications did feature Hiroshima Memorial Day and Nagasaki Memorial Day? Don’t know why they removed them this year. All I know is: I might never have been born if the Hiroshima bomb had not been dropped. On August 6, 1945, my future father was stationed on an island in the South Pacific, awaiting orders for the invasion of Japan. He would probably have been killed and never returned stateside to meet my mother after the war. But because of the bomb, he and thousands of other American men, including my uncle who is still alive at 99, survived to raise families. Second guessing world history sometimes depends on your own

  18. Mark Felton Productions has an interesting video on YouTube about the atomic bombings of Japan titled: “Third Atomic Bomb Attack – Japan 1945.”
    *
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I34pxr23Nhw
    *
    He goes into the military situation on the Japanese homeland. He also covers the intransigence of the Japanese government to surrender. Even after the Emperor had decided to surrender there was an attempted military coup to stop the surrender and continue the war. He covers the post war period in Japan where tensions were still high.

  19. Years ago, when I told my mom that John Paul II had condemned the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, she said simply, “Well the pope back then sure didn’t condemn it.”

    • “As the war neared an end, the pope OPPOSED [caps added] the unconditional surrender demanded by the Allies, fearing that it would prolong the fighting [!] and bring the Soviet Union and its communist ideology and imperium into eastern and central Europe [that went well!]. He also had serious reservations about the agreement reached by Roosevelt, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and Soviet leader Joseph Stalin at the Yalta Conference and the prominent role envisioned for the Soviet Union in postwar Europe” (fromhttps://www.britannica.com/biography/Pius-XII/World-War-II-and-the-Holocaust) [and in postwar Japan, another Yalta concession to “Uncle Joe” …not to overlook, too, that abrupt use of the bombs was partly to stop Russia in their tracks in Asia].

      And, a note for GREG B, above—-the whole point is that the War’s end turned out to NOT be “unconditional surrender.” The retention of the emperor was conceded. How would things have turned out at Hiroshima and Nagasaki if—-on this sticking point—-the slogan had been defined as to what it did NOT mean?

      Also, counter to the perspective of Japanese past and wartime history, the term—-as used by the West—-also did NOT mean mass executions, or retributive genocide, or permanent occupation (the Allies’ Atlantic Charter already prohibited this), or that American soldiers would cannibalize Japanese children (as was feared when 20,000 Japanese civilians of all ages jumped from the cliffs to their deaths at Okinawa.)

      • It is my understanding that in addition to keeping the emperor, Japan’s terms also included that the Japanese hold their own war crimes trials, and that there would be no occupation of the Japanese homeland. People have said that Japanese leadership showed extraordinary resistance to surrender. I’ve heard this said by multiple presenters of this time period. Similar intransigence on the behalf of Hitler turned the Soviet capture of Berlin into a hellish bloodbath that had a casualty count that was in the same range as the atomic bomb attacks. You and I and everyone else can discuss this till the cows come home but the Japanese leadership of the time were the ones who needed convincing.

        • Permanent occupation of the Japanese homeland was never an issue. Three related points about surrender conditions, choices and long-term consequences:

          FIRST, Alperovitz (“The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb,” 1995) addresses in two fragments Sec. of War “Stimson’s argument that Tokyo’s approaches to Moscow were not seriously considered because they contemplated retention of important conquered areas by the Japanese: (1) the approaches did not, in fact, include such conditions, (2) moreover, other intercepted messages—in particular those expressing no objection to a surrender based on the Atlantic Charter—suggested this was hardly a problem (since the charter’s specific provisions prohibited continued occupation of conquered territory): (3) in any event, British and U.S. analysts—as Churchill pointed out on July 18 [1945]—fully understood this was not a serious problem (“We know of course that the Japanese are ready to give up all conquests made in this war”) [fn.], and (4) finally, Stimson himself had urgently advised Truman to try to end the war on July 16 [the date of Trinity at Alamogordo] (and had not raised this issue as a significant problem). P. 464.

          SECOND, this, “…and most important, as we have seen, the fundamental choice available was hardly between firebombing and the atomic bomb, but between its use and, as Stimson urged, clarifying the surrender terms […]”.

          THIRD, the slippery slope: Alperovitz notes that one faction (e.g., Szilard and the scientific community) feared that using the bombs would derail possible international agreements, and trigger the nuclear arms race; while others, after the bombs’ use (Stanford University president Donald Tresidder, letter of Jan. 22, 1947), then argued, oppositely: “if the propaganda against use of the bomb had been allowed to grow unchecked, the strength of our military position by virtue of having the bomb would have been correspondingly weakened, and with this weakening would have come a decrease in the probabilities of an international agreement for the control of atomic energy.” P. 459.

  20. Unfortunately, theory is one thing and practice is another, I must admit that as a Catholic when we were attacked by the Yugoslav Serbian Army in 1991, I thought about revenge and bombing Belgrade, regardless of the victims, because I felt that the enemy attacking us was an intriguing evil.

  21. The World War II atomic bombings have become a matter of debate annually at conservative Catholic websites. The same arguments are exchanged and no one on either side leaves persuaded in the least by the positions of their opponents. There is one point that I wish proponents of the bombings would agree to: The undeniably evil nature of the Axis regimes are not relevant to the question of whether the attacks were justified. Otherwise, we need to dispense entirely with the notion that there are non-combatants in battle and accept the doctrine of total war, whereby everyone and everything in enemy territory is considered a legitimate target. I don’t see how such a perspective can be reconciled to Christianity.

    • Nothing is black & white or neat and clean when it comes to war. The nature of the regimes has everything to do with how other nations respond. German and Japanese cultures embraced a set of monstrous values and ideologies that they unleashed into the world through their citizens/soldiers. German and Japanese civilians were no less guilty than their soldiers. There are no innocent civilians to consider in the debate. The bombings were a just and necessary response.

      • “There are no innocent civilians to consider in the debate.” I don’t care all that much whether you are for or against the bombing, but I do urge you to revise the preceding statement.

        For one thing, it erodes the distinction between waging war and carrying out terrorism.

        For another, it glosses over the existence of German and Japanese children.

        It is one thing to argue that terrible decisions must sometimes be made. It is quite another to suggest that the terrible decisions weren’t really all that terrible.

    • My position is to give Truman the benefit of a doubt. WWII was a mechanized, industrialized war. The productive plant and equipment and transportation infrastructure of the combatants was the industrial muscle of their war efforts. There is a whole video series about the logistics of D-Day. They have a free YouTube video about it titled: “The Floating Harbors of D-Day” by Real Engineering.
      *
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zpFLLGkNm7I
      *
      The Mark Felton video that I referenced in another comment pointed out the military production facilities at Nagasaki.
      *
      At the time Truman was faced with his decision the Trinity test bomb was the only data point that we had regarding the effects of the a-bomb. The Trinity bomb was a stationary test device. Trinity, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki were all detonated in a space of less than a month. YouTube has many declassified, sanitized films transferred to video of post war a-bomb tests where much data was gathered about the effects. It took a while for the radiation and fallout effects to be fully recognized. It also took a while to get a treaty to stop above ground testing.
      *
      According to the Mark Felton video there was a reluctance to use a third bomb on Japan. I’ve read and heard multiple accounts the environment surrounding the use of the a-bombs. One commentator said that the Japanese leadership did not care about the suffering of the Japanese people. There were enough unknowns that I’m willing to give Truman the benefit of a doubt. The Mark Felton video ends by asking viewers what they would have done if they were in Truman’s position.

  22. I have never before come across the assertion that the widespread rejection of Humana Vitae in the United States was due to a misguided sense of patriotism among American Catholics. Would that be true also of all the Western nations whose people embraced contraception with equal vigor? The more likely reason is much simpler: A lot of people took to the idea of being able to having sterile sex. Dr. Shannon is again trying to shoehorn a negative development in history to bolster a pet theory of his. It doesn’t work.

    • Or, there was simply a growing acceptance, in a wide range of situations, that the ends justifies the means. A great strength of Americans (at least in the 20th century) was a matter-of-fact attitude about “getting things done”; it was also, I think, a great weakness.

  23. The real utilitarian calculus used for the atomic bombings was not about saving American lives but demonstrating and establishing American dominance as the new empire on the rise. And now we see that empire slowly unraveling and collapsing, as all empires must go eventually.

  24. The author’s strongest points are those he does not sufficiently emphasize. Concentrating on the atomic bombings is a mistake, as there is no moral difference between these attacks and the saturation bombings of Dresden and Hamburg, which killed as many or more civilians than in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In the hierarchy of hideously immoral actions, committed by all sides in World War II, the atomic bombings do not even occupy top billing.

    The author’s weakest argument is that we should all be “thankful that the United States has not used nuclear weapons since the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki” and that the United States bears some special guilt for the Vietnam War. In a world dotted by genocidal and totalitarian regimes, this focus on presumed American aggression or bellicosity is, frankly, bizarre.

    • Your first point is valid (also the second), although the math is inaccurate. The number killed in saturation bombing of Dresden is now estimated at 22,700 to 25,000, and at Hamburg at around 73,000. While the number at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, including radiation deaths, is about 240,000.

      Richard Rhodes (“The Making of the Atomic Bombs,” 1986/2012) identifies at least a categorical difference (in not a “moral difference”) between conventional and atomic bombs. In the latter case(s), as a “total death machine,” the kill factor is reduced to the simple distance from the point of impact… a graphed curve of 100% at 0.3 km, 50% at 1.2 km, and 10% at 2.0 km: “the relation between death percentage and distance is inversely proportional, and the killing…is no longer selective.”

      (Some math wizards notice that the Japanese Rape of Nanking and the later two atomic bombings both pencil out at around a quarter of a million.)

      • What I should have clarified is that Dresden and Hamburg together were as bad as an atomic bombing. But a better example would have been the firebombing of Tokyo, which easily killed 100,000 people in one night. And what the Germans did to London was paid back ten fold by the British. The mind simply reels before the horrific numbers.

    • Your comment regarding the Vietnam War is spot on. There was nothing immoral about trying to prevent, by military means, South Vietnam and other countries in Southeast Asia from falling under Communist domination. What happened to those nations after the American withdrawal vindicates the cause, if not the way it was pursued. I hope that if I had been around at the time, I would have argued strenuously against the Kennedy/Johnson policies which guaranteed defeat and pointless death and destruction for Americans and Vietnamese alike. Kennedy’s acquiescence to the Diem coup was the first monumental mistake, criminal in nature and disastrous in its results. Johnson’s and McNamara’s tactics likewise accomplished nothing at great cost. Nixon’s “Peach with Honor” approach of gradually withdrawing, while at the same time preserving the independence of the South was morally defensible and could have worked.

      • The U.S. involvement in the Vietnam conflict is a story of American political treachery and incompetence being paid for by the military and the Vietnamese themselves.

  25. We can also gratefully recall here the two occasions , Sept 2013 AND Sept . 2020 , when the Holy Father used the means of our times to call on all peoples across nations , to come together to plead for mercy and peace in the war torn lands of Middle East , trusting in the forgiveness Power flowing from The Cross , in the month honoring same and true to his namesake St.Francis –

    https://www.catholicworldreport.com/2013/09/01/pope-francis-calls-for-prayer-and-fasting-for-syria-on-sept-7/

    https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2020-09/pope-audience-lebanon-appeal-day-prayer-fasting-sept4.html

    May the fruits of such good and gentle leadership in wisdom keep the memories alive , to perpetuate more of same as well as to take in the blessing for the peace in our hearts !

  26. The facts speak for themselves regarding civilians in Japan and the Japanese concept of Total War circa 1945.
    Total War is defined as “military conflict in which the contenders are willing to make any sacrifice in lives and other resources to obtain a complete victory”. The Japanese view of Total War is explicit. It is demonstrated in the aggressiveness with which they took the islands to the South and other Asian territories, not to mention the horrific atrocities that habitually followed a Japanese victory. These atrocities included murdering and torturing civilians and prisoners of war. While in German prison camps 1 to 2% of American POWs died, in Japanese POW camps the death rate of American prisoners was a staggering 40%. The Japanese did not view the murder of POWs as evil because they believed that surrender strips one of all human rights. Civilians were also capable of “surrendering” according to the Japanese, justifying their treatment of the civilians they “conquered.” Japanese civilians were held to a standard of using whatever weapons were available and resisting at all cost. Therefore, the Japanese believed that civilians who did less had “surrendered” and given up their rights. Their standards for civilians go even further to include the practice of seppuku, which is “honorable suicide,” exalting suicide over surrender. Always a dimension of Japanese culture, the “way of the warrior” materialized tenaciously in WWII.
    In 1937, in the beginning of WWII in Asia, the Japanese army marched into China’s capital city of Nanking, with orders to “kill all captives”.
    “Their first concern was to eliminate any threat from the 90,000 Chinese soldiers who surrendered. To the Japanese, surrender was
    an unthinkable act of cowardice and the ultimate violation of the rigid code of military honor . . . Thus they looked upon Chinese
    POWs with utter contempt, viewing them as less than human, unworthy of life”.
    300, 000 out of 600, 000 civilians and soldiers died. The rest were raped, tortured, burned, buried alive, or murdered later in decapitation contests or “bayonet practice.” This may be the largest and bloodiest example of the appalling, inhumane practices of the Japanese army, but it is certainly not the only example. The Battle of Bataan, April 9, 1942, ended when the Americans surrendered. Afterward, the Japanese forced 76,000 Americans and Filipinos to march 60 miles without food and water, abusing them and murdering those who were too weak to go on. “We were introduced to a form of torture which came to be known as the sun treatment. We were made to sit in the boiling sun all day without cover. We had very little water; our thirst was intense. Many of us went crazy and several died. Three Filipino and three American soldiers were buried while still alive” (Bataan Corregidor Memorial Foundation of New Mexico, Inc., 1944). An estimated 11, 000 men died.
    This treatment of civilians and noncombatants is not a guide on how to treat Japanese civilians and noncombatants, nor is it a license for revenge, but it is a manifestation of the Japanese concept of Total War. The very nature of this concept must impact the civilians. If a nation’s views include civilians as part of the war, how then, must that nation’s civilians view their relationship to the war? An examination of the efforts of Japanese civilians at home provides the answer.
    The Joint Chiefs of Staff realized that one of the biggest threats in the event of an invasion would come from the Japanese civilians. They did not base this idea off the Japanese code of honor alone, but had first-hand experiences to reference. The Battle of Okinawa was one of the main references in judging what an attack on Japan would entail. This was one of the most difficult and bloody
    battles of the entire war—not simply because the U.S. underestimated the number of Japanese troops on the island, not simply because these troops fought so tenaciously, but because every person was a potential danger. A Japanese Admiral said of the Okinawans:
    “Every man has been conscribed to partake in the defense . . . girls have devoted themselves to running and cooking for the soldiers and have gone as far as to volunteer in carrying ammunition, or joining in attacking the enemy.” (Ota, June 12, 1945)
    The “civilians” on Okinawa were clearly not noncombatants, and as such were legitimate targets.
    Approximately one third of the civilian population died fighting. Many of the civilians who did not fight or knew that they were going to be taken prisoner committed suicide. “Nearly all of the Japanese died during the battle. The Japanese fought almost to the last man, choosing to die in place rather than surrender.” (White, Spring 2010).
    This is an example of what the Allies were to face throughout an invasion of the main islands of Japan, Kyushu and Honshu. U.S. intelligence had learned of a civilian army assembled in March 1945 called the Patriotic Citizens Fighting Corps, “allowing men 16-60 and women 17- 40” to join (signalalpha). 28 million civilians volunteered to be part of this corps. “Since no provision had been made to place these people in uniform, invading Allied troops would have not been able to distinguish combatants from noncombatants, effectively turning each village in Japan into a military target” (Frank, n.d.). A famous picture shows girls being trained to shoot.
    “On March 27, 1945, Public Law Number 30 mobilized all Japanese citizens. All schools except for grades one to six were suspended” (signalalpha). Schools were suspended to make warriors out of children. Most of the civilians were trained, particularly in the use of guns and hand grenades (Davis, November 1987); all were told to use bamboo spears, axes, long bows, swords, whatever weapons they had (Davis, November 1987). A Japanese high school girl was told:
    “even killing just one American soldier will do” (Frank, 1999)—just killing one American would preserve their honor.
    This Total War mentality is verified by Father Johannes Siemes, a German Jesuit who witnessed the bombing of Hiroshima. Having “discussed the ethics of using the bomb,” he and his fellow priests agreed that “in Total War, as carried on in Japan, there was no difference between civilians and soldiers and that the bomb itself was effective for tending to end the bloodshed, warning Japan to surrender and thus to avoid total destruction . . . It seems logical to us that he who supports Total War in principle cannot complain of a war against civilians.” The Japanese supported Total War in principle and in practice, therefore they could not claim that their civilians had the protections which correctly belong to noncombatants.
    Japan’s view of Total War did not include surrender, even in order “to avoid total destruction.” After the bombing of Nagasaki the Japanese did not surrender. After Hiroshima, there were several military coups, attempting to prevent a surrender. Emperor Hirohito finally won out over the military officers with the decision for peace, but not on account of the sufferings of the two cities. Two bombs convinced the Japanese that America had several more. Kantaro Suzuki, the Prime Minister of Japan in August 1945, explained the logic of the Japanese: With such superior weapons, the Americans would not attempt a landing (Suzuki, 1945). Without a chance to fight the Americans on the home islands—the chance to attack the enemy with all of its forces– Japan must surrender (Suzuki, 1945).
    The conduct of Japan throughout the war convinced Americans leaders and military commanders that surrender would not come before destruction. They conscientiously planned an invasion of the islands Kyushu and Honshu, but doubted that the cost/benefit ratio would balance Japan’s view of Total War did not include surrender, even in order “to avoid total destruction.” After the bombing of Nagasaki the Japanese did not surrender. After Hiroshima, there were several military coups, attempting to prevent a surrender. Emperor Hirohito finally won out over the military officers with the decision for peace, but not on account of the sufferings of the two cities. Two bombs convinced the Japanese that America had several more. Kantaro Suzuki, the Prime Minister of Japan in August 1945, explained the logic of the Japanese: With such superior weapons, the Americans would not attempt a landing (Suzuki, 1945). Without a chance to fight the Americans on the home islands—the chance to attack the enemy with all of its forces– Japan must surrender (Suzuki, 1945).
    The conduct of Japan throughout the war convinced Americans leaders and military commanders that surrender would not come before destruction. They conscientiously planned an invasion of the islands Kyushu and Honshu, but doubted that the cost/benefit ratio would balance at the end of Operation Downfall. The atomic bombs provided the JCS with a plan that would save lives on both sides, but they had to be sure that these nuclear weapons were necessary, and that they would work. After their ultimatums, i.e. surrender or be destroyed, were completely ignored by Japan, the JCS were forced into the decision to use the bombs. They knew from their experiences with Okinawa and other battles what Japanese civilians did as the result of their extreme Total War mentality. They knew from the information radioed in from the Pacific that they could expect the same of the Japanese civilians at home, and they were right.
    The atomic bombs were necessary. Necessity is not justification for an unjustified action. However, the Japanese concept of Total War and their militaristic society affected all their civilians so as to make them willing to defend their country at all costs. This cost them Nagasaki and Hiroshima—and it would have cost more if the use of two bombs had not convinced them that they were unequal to war against America. The Japanese said, “one hundred million will die for the emperor.” Fortunately, it was closer to one hundred thousand. Japanese civilians became combatants as a result of their martial culture and military government. Therefore, they were legitimate targets and the bombings were justified.

    • Much of warfare is less the result of inevitabilities and later necessities than of happenstance, ironies, and luck (either good or bad), and often bad judgment in the face of good advice offered by many. Take, for example, the costly battle of Okinawa…In retrospect, we have this:

      “In the end, Tenth Army did break the [Shumi] line, but victory came at terrible cost. U.S. combat divisions reported over 38,000 casualties of all types, including over seven thousand dead. Among the latter was General Buckner himself [see below], killed on June 18 by an enemy shell while visiting the front lines. Naval forces supporting the operation suffered nearly five thousand dead and another five thousand wounded, with scores of ships sunk or damaged by kamikaze attacks [….]
      “It is ironic to think that a quicker, cheaper victory on Okinawa–one engineered by a successful amphibious landing to the rear of the Shuri Line [and disapproved by the unimaginative General Buckner as he stuck with a bull-eaded frontal assault]–might have persuaded the United States that the use of atomic weapons was not necessary [!] to force the Japanese government to capitulate” (roundtable discussions, including military historian James Hallas, et al, in Jim Bresnahan, editor, “Refighting the Pacific War,” Naval Institute Press, 2011).

      Incidentally, the United States did not have several more bombs. Instead, none. General Leslie Groves did hope to have 18 more by the end of the year. He also was self-assured that no one could do what he had done as head engineer for the Manhattan Project, insisting that the Russians would not succeed for another twenty years (rather than in only four, 1949). How much did his bull-headed error in clairvoyance influence the momentum to use of the bombs in 1945, compared to the discounted threat of triggering a post-war nuclear arms race with the global threat of Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD)?

      • There were Soviet spies in the Manhattan Project. Klaus Fuchs and Theodore Hall were prominent ones, but there were suppose to have been others. Stalin knew about the bomb before Truman told him about it at the Potsdam Conference.

        • OF COURSE, Stalin knew about the bomb. He had his own lagging and weakly supported project. What he did not know until Potsdam was that the bomb was no longer theoretical, but that it worked. Nor did he know, even then, its catastrophic destructive power.

          For several months the issue had been how much and when to inform Stalin, considering the impact this would have on the timing of problematic Russian entry into the war in the Far East, and the prospects for post-war trust-building regarding nuclear weapons.

          Many fragmentary diary entries about how much, or how little was actually communicated. Secretary of State James Byrne (one month in office) remarked later that “I did my best to have him [Stalin] informed in such a manner that the importance of the information would not impress him.” Truman was also less than forthcoming; in his memoirs, wrote: “I casually mentioned to Stalin that we had a new weapon of unusual destructive power. The Russian Premier showed no special interest. All he said was he that he was glad to hear it and hoped we would make ‘good use of it against the Japanese.’” Only after the leveling of Hiroshima did he order a speed-up of the Soviet atomic effort.

          As for the Soviet spies Fuchs and Hall (and Harry Gold, etc.), see Steve Sheinkin, “Bomb: The Race to Build–and Steal–the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon,” Scholastic Inc., 2012.

          • The successful test of the Trinity test bomb was on July 16, 1945. The Potsdam Conference took place between July 17 to August 2, 1945. They were contemporaneous events. How long would it have taken for the Soviet spies to supply Stalin with the information about the destructive yield of the bomb?

          • Good question. Ted Hall, an American physicist and Soviet spy, was actually at Trinity, and sat at the back of an army truck with soldiers spellbound by the rising mushroom cloud. “I had rather expected that it would work,” he said. But then only later, this about Stalin and Hiroshima:

            “’Stalin had a tremendous blow up,’ recalled on top official, ‘losing his temper, banging his fist on the table and stamping his feet.’ He had known the American bomb was coming, of course. But reports of its devastating power shocked him.

            “Hiroshima has shaken the whole world!’ he shouted to his advisors. ‘The balance has been destroyed.’ Stalin wanted his own atomic bomb—and he wanted it quickly. ‘Provide us with atomic weapons in the shortest possible time. It will remove a great danger from us” (Steve Sheikin, “Bomb: The Race to Build—and Steal—the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon,” Scholastic Inc., 2012, p. 202). No citations, but, from the bibliography, a good guess is that the source is Harry Gold in his testimony included in “Scope of Soviet Activity in the United States,” a series of congressional hearing in 1956.

  27. The topic is really Interesting for me throwing the atomic bomb is a sin. It is true that after the atomic bomb the mankind Will be in a serious danger of being destroyed.
    However we must analyze other posibilities of course It was impossible that in 1945 won the war, indeed the nationalist goverment was more a danger to the japaneses more than the americans. The Toju goverment’s Might force to the japanese to commit a ritual suicide over the all population. The decission was to save lives of american soldiers. A lot of critics against the atomic bomb was of the left wing but they do not want to admit was the serious possibility that the Soviet Union wanted his part of the cake. The soviet army was killing and raping people in Manchuria. Giving the half of Japan to the Soviet Union the end of the empire and the possibility of the Soviet Union raped the japanese women, committed purgues and they built gulag to the population and overall the impossibility of having an Allie against the red China. Indeed Japan was very weak to suppose a menace against China with my view the tings would have been much worst. Also i want to remind that in the Korean War MacArthur purposed to Truman to throw the atomic bomb and Truman demied doing It.

  28. The YouTube channel Military History Visualized has a long interesting interview of D.M. Giangreco on the Invasion of Japan, Lend Lease and many more topics. It is titled “D.M. Giangreco on the Invasion of Japan, Lend Lease & much more”
    *
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_4uDfg38gyk
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    It has a list of topics and timestamps. He brings up logistics. He says that the Japanese military had a strategy of maximum bloodletting to stretch out the war. He said that the emperor had to send out personal envoys to deliver the surrender instructions to forces out in the field to insure compliance. He said that the US didn’t take Berlin because the loss estimate for Berlin would have been 100,000 troops that were needed for the Pacific Theater and disrupt the European Theater as well. He claims that it was understood that the Potsdam Declaration was directed solely against the military and not the emperor. He addresses the pluses and minuses of alternative history. He said that some of the alternative histories ignore the logistics needed to support alternative scenarios.

    • In the case of Berlin i do not think although they had 100000 soldiers more. I do not think that they had been able to conquer before that the Soviet Union. Hitler comventrated the soldiers in the western side because he prefferred to be destroyed by the Communist. It was a revenge against Germany for being so weak.

  29. The difficulty of invading Japan is always tendered without any further justification. Why would Japan have to be invaded (if there were no atomic bombs)? They were totally vulnerable, with no access to oil and therefore the fuel of war. The US navy could have picked off all the legitimate targets such as factories, Japanese naval and commercial shipping, harbours, communications. They could have been worn down without the intrinsically evil atomic bombs.

  30. Why are modern-day trad-Catholics so supportive and enthusiastic about mass slaughter, as long as it doesn’t involve abortion? If it isn’t cheer-leading for nuclear weapons, it’s massive death and destruction in the Middle East. Thank God there were no fetuses in either instance!

    It’s another sad and sickening symptom of the religious rot in American faith. But at least they’ll find favor with their new gods on cable news and the internet!

    • The topic is really Interesting. Mr. Lionel there was a problem with Japan. The measures described by you unfortunatelly had not produced the Japan surrender. The Nationalist Dictatorship was ready to fight until the Last men. This has not solved.
      It is truth that It is inmoral but despite United States had a clamsy polític with Japan. Without the American block Japan would have never entered in the war, but the problem is that Japan wanted revenge. Might solve his problems declaring an unfair war to United States knowing that they had not way to win them. But they wanted revenge. Reminded that This people provoked war crimes Nanking, Bután, Kwai Bridge. These people ate the lever raw and we reminded that the Pacific war was most cruel than the western war. Saint Thomas Aquinas defended the War Fair, which does not want to drop the atomic war was Fair. Besides we reminded that a phoetus could not defend a man yes. Reminded that the japanese people suffered the Nationalist Dictatorship and his polític police Kempeltai.

  31. I am the child of a South Pacific Combat Vet of WWII. My father’s infantry division, the 32nd, was involved in the most combat during all of WWII and in the history of the US Military. He survived several major landings and campaigns and was preparing for the invasion of Japan. He did not believe he would survive it. I always justified the dropping of the bomb based on my own self-interest, I may not have been born if we didn’t drop the bomb. But I have changed my belief. It seems as though we had alternatives to dropping the bomb. And we know World War II was preventable. How? Our Lady of Fatima told us. So was the Cold War. War is a punishment for our own sins. If enough people had converted their hearts and stop offending God, the war would not have come. And Russia would not have spread it’s errors which means all the wars and conflicts since WWII would not have happened. Fulton Sheen said it many times, war is the result of our sins. When enough people have evil in their hearts, it boils over into war. Each person builds peace by converting their hearts, repenting of their sins, and living according to God’s plan. If enough people do this, we will have peace. Abraham Lincoln even understood this and believed the Civil War was a punishment. The Bible if filled with wars that were the result of sin. Sodom and Gomarah could have been saved if enough people would have stopped sinning. We even an idea on the ratio of good people vs. evil that is needed. “If 10 people… I will not destroy it.” We seem to have lost this understanding along the way and have adopted the modernist view of God, that He is uninvolved and just watches us and lets us work it out like an uninvolved Father. Notice how many church leaders have not really appealed to God to end this pandemic. Very few, and some of it was half-hearted. They trust more in science to save us. Climate disasters are now man made. God has no involvement in that either. Our Church leaders rely more on man than God. Something has changed in the church. We believe in God, but what kind of God do our bishops and the pope believe in? A distant uninvolved Father? One who is powerless to act? One who sits back without concern. One who forgives us with no need for repentance or conversion? One who affirms all our choices? It’s easy to talk about peace, but the work of peace may involve sticking your neck out and telling two men they can’t marry each other. Or no you can’t fornicate, you can’t commit adultery or look at a woman lustfully, you can’t murder your unborn child, you must cover yourself and not wear immodest clothing, you must not take God’s name in vain, you must confess your sins to receive mercy. These things our bishops and priests are afraid to talk about. But these will bring about peace or war. Good fruit bears Good Fruit. Evil brings about evil. It’s all connected. The good will suffer with the evil. Praying for the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary!

  32. To agree with abortion is to carry the guilt of abortion and I am sure that those that do so, will be held accountable before God, may God have mercy on them. To agree with the dropping of the atomic bomb is to carry the guilt of all of the innocents who perished by those who used it and I believe that they also will be held accountable before God, may God have mercy on them. I believe that the atomic bomb is ‘The Abomination of Desolation. May God have mercy on all of us.

    kevin your brother
    In Christ

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