Happy Hiroshima Day

Battle of Shanghai 1937 – A baby cries after the Railway station is bombed by Japanese planes.

As the clock ticks towards 8.45a.m. on this, the 6th day of August, another Hiroshima Day will be remembered around the world. There can be no argument that both bombs caused considerable suffering and were terrible events. This day has become something of an apology day, yet should we apologise? The Japanese suffered far more civilian casualties in the March/April 1945 firebombing raids on Tokyo.  In fact the raid on the night of 9/10 March was more destructive in human lives than Dresden or the two atomic bomb raids on Hiroshima and Nagasaki as single events.

Let us never forget for a moment how horrific such events are. But then again, don’t usurp other people’s suffering to make political points decades later and apply the soft sensibilities of this century’s society to decisions made and actions taken seventy or so years ago. Lest we forget why the bombs were dropped and even if they were partly to send a warning to the Soviet Union, the reasons did include the saving of millions of lives on both sides. The Japanese civilians had suffered during the battles on Saipan, Tinian and Okinawa with thousands committing suicide. Orders had already been given for the execution of Allied POWs should the front line of any invasion of the Home Islands come close to the camps. As harsh as that sounds, militarily it is sound as the Japanese didn’t want to run the risk of the POWs operating as bands of guerillas in their rear areas.

They didn’t just wake up one day and think; “hmmm, let’s wipe out a Japanese city…”

Lest we forget the Rape of Nanking, the slaughter of civilians in Shanghai, Hong Kong, Manila and Singapore. After they had captured the cities and resistance was finished! The murder of patients on the operating table and the doctors and nurses trying to protect their patients at hospitals in Hong Kong and Singapore as well as Bataan. Not a once off atrocity but something that happened several times indicating an attitude and disregard for humanity that was prevalent in the Japanese psyche of those days. A disregard I have yet to find in the many wonderful, kind Japanese people I have met in my lifetime, or the many wonderful Japanese people who welcomed my father to their homes and country when he visited there in 1969. There is no doubt Japanese (and Korean and Taiwanese nationals pressed into their military service) committed atrocities and war crimes and there is no doubt their Emperor not only knew but condoned these crimes; including the execution and even cannibalism of captured Allied aircrew (Read ‘Knights of Bushido’ By Lord Russell of Liverpool).

On this day, while we pause and remember those who died in the first atomic bomb let us not forget those who suffered in the events that led up to the dropping of The Bomb. Sadly, we still cause suffering to our fellow humans around the world to this very day, it is apparently part of the human condition. What is also very human is to lie and deny. Don’t let’s swallow the revisionist rubbish that the Japanese did not commit atrocities like Nanking, as some try to do. It is as offensive to the Chinese and others as denying the Holocaust is to Jews and all the others who suffered the Nazi’s Final Solution. Do not persecute today’s Japanese for the sins of their fathers and grandfathers and great-grandfathers. Rather, read up on the history and try to put it in perspective. While history is usually written by the victors, that shouldn’t automatically make it suspect. Read widely, then perhaps do as I have done and visit these places. I have been to Singapore, Hong Kong, Manila, Bataan, Hellfire Pass on the Burma Railway and  many other sites of interest from the Pacific War. I have spoken to people who were there and who lived the history I studied. So today, on Hiroshima Day, by all means commiserate with those who suffered, but remember a lot of people suffered on both sides. Commiserate, but don’t condone either revisionist denial or blanket justification and don’t condemn those who made decisions and took actions that, at the time, were appropriate given the circumstances as they knew them to be. Above all else, understand and ensure we never go down that path ever again. Perhaps then Hiroshima, Nagasaki and every other event and death of that war will have achieved some purpose.

NOTE: Before you Comment, read this account by a Japanese serviceman on the beheading of Flt Lt W.E. Newton VC, and take note of the thinking of the writer, how they felt about what we consider barbarism. Lest We Forget

Execution of Sgt L.G. Siffleet, 1943. Wrongly believed for many years to be the execution of Flt Lt Newton VC. Spare a moment to put yourself in Sgt Siffleet’s place…

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