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Forty-Seven Years After Hiroshima: The Debate Continues

August 17, 1992



Regarding the Opinion page article "Was Hiroshima Needed to End the War?," August 6: Many thanks to the authors for their fine analysis of the Hiroshima conundrum. The atomic bomb is but one of many episodes in American history in which more light should be shed. In their postwar debriefings the Japanese leadership was almost unanimous in their opinion that submarine warfare did more than anything else to defeat the Japanese empire.

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The authors, however, left out one major consideration; the atomic-bomb project created its own dynamic, and there was a great temptation to test the bomb under actual combat, thus helping to justify the expenditure of billions of dollars and four years of effort. Jon Arnold, Chicago

This article was long overdue. I was, however, disappointed that there was no mention of Japan's first offering to consider peace in December 1944 that preceded the August 1945 bombing.

Another angle not mentioned was how conniving the developers of the atomic bomb were in getting the bomb tested on a city and not merely in a testing area.

There was evidently great skill involved in persuading policymakers to delay and not admitting that their real purpose was to get the bomb tested. Howard Seldon, Colorado

The authors neglected entirely the Oriental concept of perceived honor of the Japanese people, and how their honor required the Japanese to meet an invasion of their homeland with total resistance.

It took a lot of persuasion 20 years later to convince Japanese soldiers isolated on islands that the war was over. Add in the phenomenon of kamikaze attacks on American ships, and it begins to look clear that the likelihood of the Japanese surrendering with only token resistance was virtually zero. At the same time, the American public had been subject to over three years of representation that we would accept nothing less than unconditional surrender.

I also find the author's contention that using the bomb had much to do with the origins of the cold war simply incredible. The cold war was almost entirely the result of Soviet imperialism and would have ensued with or without our use of the atomic bomb in Japan.

Perhaps the war could have been ended without using the bomb. And perhaps not. In August 1945, the answer was far from clear. Robert B. Henn, Ambler, Pa.

The authors made no mention of the citizens of the Dutch East Indies, nor of the English and Australian prisoners of war whose lives were saved by the ending of the war. If a landing had happened in November 1945, no Dutch citizen (including prisoners of war and women and children) would have been alive.

The Japanese concentration camps, as well as the dreaded Burma railroad project and other extermination inventions were well thought out and efficient.

It was not only the United States who fought in the Pacific war. Afke L. Doran, Silverton, Ore.

By ignoring Nagasaki, the article only asks half the question. The two bombs were built using different technology. Was the United States government's aim to compare their effects? George J. Vakkur, Northampton, Maine