While we appropriately remember and honor our war dead each Memorial Day, there remains a small, obscure group of 19 soldiers who died as a result of a decision in Washington that their lives were expendable and necessary to help end the war.
On the bright summer day of Aug. 6 and then again on Aug. 9, 1945, U.S. B-29 bombers dropped nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, respectively, sewing unparalleled destruction and death within minutes!
The result was that 39% (90,000 to 146,000) of Hiroshima residents died. In Nagasaki, three days later, 32% (38,000 to 80,000) of the residents perished!
Sadly, this does not tell the whole story! On the days of the bombing, 32 American prisoners of war were being held in Hiroshima. Twelve POWs in Hiroshima died in the bombing, and seven Nagasaki prisoners were killed by our A-blast!.
Was the U.S. decision justified? In examining documents of that era, our government, no doubt, was well-aware that many POWs’ lives were imperiled by dropping the A-Bomb. Yet, a strategic decision was made that it was crucial we move forward with the mission -- knowing the end result!
The decision was ultimately left up to President Harry Truman, who agreed that using the A-Bomb would eliminate the necessity of an invasion of Japan.
Furthermore, Truman, in addressing the nation, expressed the fact that too many of our POWs held by Japan were dying! * Japan had messaged the U.S. through diplomatic channels that if we invaded the mainland of Japan, ALL POWs would be killed! *
Nevertheless, in keeping with U.S. policy of managing and withholding information, these POWs’ deaths were "swept under the rug " for decades, not coming to light until recently. Was this the right decision for the times? Only history and time will judge that decision. No doubt to have disclosed that these 19 soldiers were "sacrificial lambs" for the Japanese bombing would not have been a popular decision post-WWII!
God bless these 19 for their extraordinary, yet, unusual sacrifice to the war effort. (A complete list of names of the POWs who died is available online.)
Source: * CBS Evening News; May 26, 2016
National Public Radio; PBS
Wall Street Journal; August 7, 2015
Personal letter from President Truman to Federal Council of
of Churches; August 11, 1945
James W. Anderson,