Mack Hall, HSG
From reading the popular press the naïve among us might infer that in August of 1945 the world was in a happy state of peace and repose, and that President Truman, with nothing much else to do, ordered an atomic bomb to be dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. For no reason. No reason at all.
Last week the President of the United States visited Japan, and was expected to apologize. Although he did say a few fatuous things about some nebulous concept called evolving morality (what, really, does that mean?), he did not apologize for the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Better individuals than I have studied everything dispassionately and concluded that dropping the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki was bad. Others, also better than I, studied the same primary sources and concluded that dropping the bombs ended the war more quickly than was otherwise possible, and in doing so saved the lives of millions of Japanese as well as free-world allies. So, I don’t know. I am thankful never to have been any part of that.
Last week the prime minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe, also did not apologize. He did not apologize for Pearl Harbor, the Philippines, French Indo-China, China, Dutch East Indies, Hong Kong, Borneo, Burma, Nanjing, Malaya, New Guinea, Singapore, Korea, Manchuria, Balalae Island, Andaman Islands, hundreds of death camps, forced labor, starvation, torture, the murder of civilian prisoners, the murder of military prisoners, Unit 731 and numerous other units for experimenting on live prisoners, dissection of living American prisoners at Kyushu Imperial University (but, hey, how ‘bout their football team, eh?), the Three Alls Policy, poison gas attacks, biological attacks, Alexandra Hospital massacre, Banka Island massacre, Balikpapan massacre, Laha Airfield massacre, Manila massacre, Pantingan River massacre, Sandankan massacre, Parit Sulong massacre, Suaid massacres and cannibalism, SS Behar massacre, I-8 massacres, Akikaze massacre, Attu aid station massacre, Sook Ching massacre, Sulug Island massacre, Tol Plantation massacre, Banka Island massacre, Nauru Island massacre, Wake Island massacre, Manila massacre, Bataan Death March, Burma Railway, hell ships, Panjiayu, Sandakan Death Marches, Changteh chemical weapon attack, Kaimingye germ weapons attack, and on and on and on.
There is not a dull word in the survivors’ accounts.
The same old complaint about “Why don’t they teach this in schools?” just won’t do - when the Soviets launched the first Sputnik in 1957 the concept of a broad education for all was jettisoned by the will of the people in favor of technical training. It’s mostly Chinese-made gadgets now. But you can pull up on the computer (usually made in China by a Japanese-owned company) any of the death-camp narratives, put your kid in front of it, and tell him “Boy, you read this before you complain about what a rough life you have.” You could start with the Alexandra Hospital massacre (http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/ww2peopleswar/stories/60/a8515460.shtml).
One purpose of studying history – one of those purportedly fuzzy liberal arts so despised now - is that a young man or woman might question why the government his parents and elders elected should expect him to die next year protecting Japan from China.
Yes, we have all fallen short of the glory of God. All. And that suggests humility for all.