Letters to the Editor. Commager on Hiroshima

I read with great interest the comments of Henry Steele Commager in his column, ``Was Hiroshima necessary?'' [Sept. 10.]. The implication is clear -- if we possessed conventional capability to destroy the Japanese we should have stayed with that, that somehow this was better, more noble, or more fair. The finer points of this distinction would be lost on the Japanese who died at the hands of our conventional arsenal. To withhold one form of violence in favor of an equal or more powerful violence serves no purpose. Either the US committed itself to the destruction of Japan or it didn't; quibbling about the form of the destr uction is idle diversion. James H. Algeo Jr. Presidio of San Francisco

During this 40th anniversary of the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it has been claimed that the bombing actually saved lives. But if Commager is giving us a true picture, then such claims must refer to American lives saved. John H. Bell East Providence, R.I.

In what turned out to be one of the costliest intelligence errors of the Pacific war, the United States in 1945 believed that Japan's crack Kwantung Army on the continent was still intact. (In fact, it had ceased to exist, units having been assigned to other fighting groups.)

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Although as Professor Commager suggests, Japan's military leadership may well have known the hopelessness of the nation's situation in July 1945 and continued the fighting simply for ``honor,'' the Soviet Union's entry made fighting even for ``honor'' out of the question. Since the US well knew of the forthcoming entry of the USSR, was it necessary -- without forewarning and over highly populated areas -- to drop the two bombs?

The costliness of our intelligence error on the status of the Kwantung Army was incalculable.

On the basis of one week of fighting, the Soviet Union became one of the victors against Japan, regaining southern Sakhalin, all of the Kurile Archipelago, acquiring small islands off the coast of Hokkaido, plundering the industrial plant and equipment of Manchuria, and taking surrender of Japanese forces on the Korean Peninsula south to the 38th parallel. How different the postwar years would have been had we known that our fears about the Kwantung Army were groundless. Eleanor M. Hadley University of Washington Seattle

Commager misses the whole point. The bomb gave the Japanese a reason to stop fighting. We could never have ended the war as he suggests, for the Japanese would have starved to death, en masse, rather than surrender. Richard Zacher Oceanside, Calif.

Commager forgets that even five days after dropping the first atomic bomb, the Japanese Empire wasn't about to give in. Don Gillen, Publisher York News-Times York, Neb.

Does Mr. Commager believe that by not dropping the bomb a nuclear arms race would not have been launched? After all, the US was not the only country working on the bomb. Is he suggesting that the Russians would have had no interest in developing their own nuclear weapons simply because we had not dropped the two that we had built?

Commager ought to bring us some research done about the guilt feelings the Japanese have felt over the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, which left over a thousand men entombed in the USS Arizona, the inhumane death march from Bataan, and the subsequent brutal treatment of all prisoners of war who were held in Japan and the Philippines. Ward T. Donley Spring Valley, Calif.

In August of 1945, the American people were weary of war, rationing, men being killed in battle, and families being separated for years; the concept of a year-long, or longer, blockade of Japan would not have occurred to any but the most naive idealist. Robert B. Henn Medina, Ohio

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