Duty to Warn
Gary G. Kohls, MD
“An irradiated crucifix lies in the ruins of the Urakami Cathedral Following the Atomic Bombing of Nagasaki”
70 years ago (August 9, 1945) an all-Christian bomber crew dropped a plutonium bomb over Nagasaki City, Japan, instantly vaporizing, incinerating or otherwise annihilating tens of thousands of innocent civilians, a disproportionately large number of them Japanese Christians. The explosion mortally wounded uncountable thousands of other victims who succumbed to the blast, the intense heat and/or the radiation.
In 1945, the US was regarded as the most Christian nation in the world (that is, if you can label as truly Christian a nation whose churches are proponents of eye-for-an-eye retaliation, are supportive of America’s military and economic exploitation of other nations or otherwise fail to sincerely teach or adhere to the ethics of Jesus as taught in the Sermon on the Mount).
Ironically, prior to the bomb exploding nearly directly over the Urakami Cathedral at 11:02 AM, Nagasaki was the most Christian city in Japan, and the massive cathedral was the largest Christian church in the Orient.
Those baptized and confirmed Christian airmen, following their wartime orders to the letter, did their job efficiently, and they accomplished the mission with military pride, albeit with an astonishing number of near-fatal glitches in the mission. Most of us Americans would have done what the crew did if we had been in the shoes of the Bock’s Car crew. And, if we had never seen, heard or smelled the suffering humanity that the bomb caused on the ground, and if we had been treated as heroes in the aftermath, most of us would have experienced no remorse for our participation in what was retrospectively universally regarded as a war crime.
Indeed, the use of the most monstrous weapons of mass destruction in the history of warfare, was later defined by the Nuremberg Tribunal as an international war crime and a crime against humanity.
Of course, there was no way that the crew members knew that at the time of the mission. Some of the crew did admit that they had had some doubts about what they had participated in after the bomb actually detonated. But none of them actually witnessed the horrific suffering of the victims up close and personal. “Orders are orders” and disobedience in wartime is severely punishable, even by summary execution, so the crew obeyed the orders.
Making it Hard for Japan to Surrender
It had been only 3 days since the August 6th bomb had incinerated Hiroshima. The Nagasaki bomb was dropped amidst massive chaos and confusion in Tokyo, where the fascist military command was just beginning a meeting with the Emperor to discuss how to surrender with honor. The military and civilian leadership of both nations had known for months that Japan had lost the war.
The only obstacle to ending the war had been the Allied Powers insistence on unconditional surrender, which meant that the Emperor Hirohito would have been removed from his figurehead position in Japan and perhaps even subjected to war crime trials. That demand was intolerable for the Japanese, who regarded the Emperor as a deity.
The USSR had declared war against Japan the day before (August 8), hoping to regain territories lost to Japan in the humiliating (for Russia) Russo-Japanese War 40 years earlier, and Stalin’s army was now advancing across Manchuria. Russia’s entry into the war had been encouraged by President Truman before he knew of the success of the atom bomb test in New Mexico on July 16.
But now, Truman and his strategists knew that the bomb could elicit Japan’s surrender without Stalin’s help. So, not wanting to divide any of the spoils of war with the USSR, and because the US wanted to send an early cold war message to Russia that the US was the new planetary superpower, Truman ordered bomber command to proceed with using the atomic bombs as weather permitted and as they became available (although no more fissionable material was actually available to make a fourth bomb).
The Decision to Target Nagasaki
August 1, 1945 was the earliest deployment date for the Japanese bombing missions, and the Target Committee in Washington, D.C. had already developed a list of relatively un-damaged Japanese cities that were to be excluded from the conventional USAAF (US Army Air Force) fire-bombing campaigns (that, during the first half of 1945, had used napalm to burn to the ground over 60 essentially defenseless Japanese cities).
The list of protected cities included Hiroshima, Niigata, Kokura, Kyoto and Nagasaki. Those five cities were to be off-limits to the terror bombings that the other cities were being subjected to. They were to be preserved as potential targets for the new “gimmick” weapon that had been researched and developed in labs and manufacturing plants all across America over the several years since the Manhattan Project had begun.