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porcupine

On A W.H.I.M. (Weather, Silo-Stored, Interception, Guided Missile)

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He flew a B-29 Super Fortress in WWII - one of them will be flying over the mall tomorrow in the Arsenal of Democracy Capital Flyover.

Not to stir up any controversy, but Enola Gay was a B-29 Super Fortress.

You can call this coincidence, or voodoo: Enola Gay was the plane that dropped Little Boy on Hiroshima.

And the plane that dropped Fat Man on Nagasaki? It was called ... you're not going to believe this ... Bockscar.

Going further into the land of voodoo ... the pilot of Bockscar was ... Charles Sweeney.

For anyone interested in this subject, check out  "The Men Who Brought the Dawn", currently airing on the Smithsonian Channel.  It's a fascinating documentary told by the men who flew the missions.  I loved hearing their perspective on it.  I had no idea how much authority Col. Tibbets had in mission planning.

[FWIW I'm starting this in the History forum rather than the TV forum because I hope to ignite a discussion about the atomic bombings rather than a discussion about the TV show.]

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For anyone interested in this subject, check out  "The Men Who Brought the Dawn", currently airing on the Smithsonian Channel.  It's a fascinating documentary told by the men who flew the missions.  I loved hearing their perspective on it.  I had no idea how much authority Col. Tibbets had in mission planning.

[FWIW I'm starting this in the History forum rather than the TV forum because I hope to ignite a discussion about the atomic bombings rather than a discussion about the TV show.]

 

The bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki used a different sort of weapon from the years-long campaign by the Allies to destroy the major population centers of the Axis countries by aerial bombardment, but it was really not that different in objective or effect. The unspeakable crimes perpetrated by the regimes of Germany and Japan provide no excuse for, nor any mitigation of, the crimes of the Allies, which are among the worst in history. The My Lai massacre? How about the massacre of Hamburg?

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The bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki used a different sort of weapon from the years-long campaign by the Allies to destroy the major population centers of the Axis countries by aerial bombardment, but it was really not that different in objective or effect. The unspeakable crimes perpetrated by the regimes of Germany and Japan provide no excuse for, nor any mitigation of, the crimes of the Allies, which are among the worst in history. The My Lai massacre? How about the massacre of Hamburg?

The Hamburg Massacre was bad, but I'm unconvinced it ranked among the worst in history.

As for Operation Gomorrah in 1943, two years before Germany surrendered, well, don't go around conquering entire continents, torturing people, killing 6 million Jews, and Blitzing London for 57 consecutive nights, and maybe your cities won't get firebombed.

"According to Joseph Goebbels, Nazi Minister for Propaganda, the bombing of Hamburg was the first time that he thought Nazi Germany might have to call for peace."

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The Hamburg Massacre was bad, but I'm unconvinced it ranked among the worst in history. Plus, it has nothing to do with the topic at hand.

As for Operation Gomorrah in 1943, two years before Germany surrendered, well, don't go around trying to conquer entire continents, torturing people, killing 6 million Jews, and Blitzing London for 57 consecutive nights, and maybe your cities won't get firebombed. (This is also a separate topic from dropping the nuclear bombs, but at least it's somewhat related).

"According to Joseph Goebbels, Nazi Minister for Propaganda, the bombing of Hamburg was the first time that he thought Nazi Germany might have to call for peace."

My remark on the crimes committed by the Allies in their conduct of the Second World War referred to all of the city bombings, not merely to that of Hamburg, although that was among the worst. Every city in Germany except Heidelberg was bombed, many repeatedly, many reduced to rubble, killing hundreds of thousands of people whose only offense was being German. The crimes of the Nazi regime cannot justify the crimes of the Allies, which continued until well after it was obvious that the war was won.

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The crimes of the Nazi regime cannot justify the crimes of the Allies, which continued until well after it was obvious that the war was won.

Your opinion is perfectly valid, but it is an opinion - other intelligent, reasonable people have the exact opposite opinion. I personally do not know the answer, or even if there is an answer.

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 Your opinion is perfectly valid, but it is an opinion - other intelligent, reasonable people have the exact opposite opinion. I personally do not know the answer, or even if there is an answer.

The exact opposite opinion would be that both the Allies and the Axis powers were blameless in their conduct of the war, but you probably don't mean that. The Nazis' crimes are a fact, but the Allies' crimes are an opinion?

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I don't know when history forgot this, but can we please say "killing 11 million people"? Because when we talk about "6 million Jews" we are forgetting about 5 million - 5,000,000! - FIVE MILLION others who died in the same holocaust Thanks.

The bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki used a different sort of weapon from the years-long campaign by the Allies to destroy the major population centers of the Axis countries by aerial bombardment, but it was really not that different in objective or effect. The unspeakable crimes perpetrated by the regimes of Germany and Japan provide no excuse for, nor any mitigation of, the crimes of the Allies, which are among the worst in history. The My Lai massacre? How about the massacre of Hamburg?

And don't forget the firebombing of Tokyo. Richard Frank's book Downfall opens with an account of that horror. It's one of the aspects of the atomic bombings that fascinates me. Why do those two events have such a great effect on us 70 years later, when the firebombings were (arguably) just as bad?

Yeah, war is hell. Is there ever justification?

[note that I am not yet weighing in on either side]

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Why do those two events have such a great effect on us 70 years later, when the firebombings were (arguably) just as bad?

Because we were brought up having to go through air-raid drills and crawl under our desks at school, and taught that atomic war meant the End Of The World.

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Because we were brought up having to go through air-raid drills and crawl under our desks at school, and taught that atomic war meant the End Of The World.

Oh heck that was too easy.  End of discussion.  :P

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And don't forget the firebombing of Tokyo.  Richard Frank's book Downfall opens with an account of that horror.

I don't forget it. Let me take the opportunity to recommend the film The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara (2003). Here's a beautiful clip in which McNamara talks about the bombing of Japan.

 
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On a somewhat tangential basis, a few years ago my last surviving aunt passed away after a longish and painful period.  Her passing was a blessing for her as it ended the pain and discomfort.  Her kids, grandkids and my siblings and other cousins arrived for the funeral.  We were a very close family growing up.

After her passing her kids opened a large storage box.  They had never had access to its contents.  In it was huge treasure trove of memories including an enormous volume of letters and pictures from her husband while in WWII.  My uncle had served in the South Pacific.   His official letters and communications all stated that he was a mechanic servicing planes, and stationed on the ground.

He flew.  He didn't want to worry his parents, but to his wife, he sent endless communications of what he really did.  There were hundreds of pictures from bombing missions, pictures in which there must have been dog fights, pictures of the destruction from bombs, etc.   Really remarkable.   None of my generation ever knew anything about any of that.  A complete surprise.  My uncle passed away in the 1990's and his wife never mentioned any of this to her kids.   Nor did he ever speak about his war time experiences that I can recall nor could his kids, my siblings or cousins.

Similarly about 2 years ago, I learned of a neighbor of my uncle and aunt, and friend of my parents who similarly engaged in  activities in WWII that never got mentioned.  This fellow was part of a diversionary group whose sole purpose was to draw fire from German forces and divert fire from real forces.  It was called the Ghost Army.  They operated as "almost" a suicide mission.

In retrospect, and has been reported many times about soldiers who have gone to war and end up never discussing it upon returning home, my uncle, his neighbor, and virtually all the men/fathers of that generation and that community never spoke about their service.

Really remarkable.  I know that virtually all of the fathers from my experience in growing up served in WWII.  I never heard about wartime experiences either from the parents or passed on by their kids, my friends and peers.

War is hell.  Virtually no one wants to serve in it.

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Both my mother and father served in the U.S. Navy during the Second World War, my father as a bomber pilot stationed in North Africa. (My mother served stateside, as all or nearly all the WAVES* did.) Both my parents used to talk about the war in general terms, and of personal experiences as well, but I don't recall my father ever talking about missions he flew. I have no idea what kind of targets he dropped bombs on. Late in his Navy career, he worked in intelligence, picking targets to bomb in North Vietnam.

* Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Service

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Well this is all interesting but rather unfocused, so let me pose a question to anyone interested in the topic: in your opinion, were the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki justified?  Reading between the lines, I'd say The Hersch's answer is "no", and Rocks' answer is "yes".  Can either of you elaborate?  Anyone else?

Can there be such a thing as a justifiable atrocity?

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Well this is all interesting but rather unfocused, so let me pose a question to anyone interested in the topic: in your opinion, were the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki justified?  Reading between the lines, I'd say The Hersch's answer is "no", and Rocks' answer is "yes".  Can either of you elaborate?  Anyone else?

I'll weigh in; it's something I've given some thought to, and had many discussions about.

Bottom line for me is that they were justifiable, in that I'm satisfied that the alternatives (invading the homeland or blockading it and starving them out) would have been much worse.  I don't believe the Japanese were "about to surrender."  While there were those in the hierarchy that wanted to give up, from my reading on the subject there were more who didn't and wouldn't have, and the latter were the hard-line militarists who had control of national policy and were prepared to die themselves and accept unlimited deaths among others rather than face up to the disgrace of admitting they had been wrong all along not to mention the loss of face for them and for the nation as they saw it.   The nuclear bombing was evil, but the alternative was more evil.  The human suffering and loss of life, just for the Japanese people let alone Allied military, would have been much greater without using the bomb. Truman was right.

This brings up a corollary issue, i.e. nuclear disarmament.  It has been said that the main impact of getting rid of all nuclear weapons would be to make the world safe for conventional warfare, the kind that led to 60 million deaths in the course of WWII and millions more during the rest of the first half of the 20th century.  I think that is true.  If one were to look at a graph of the number of lives lost in warfare year by year through the 20th century, one would notice a sudden, marked, and sustained drop around late 1945.  That is not a coincidence.  As upsetting as the cold war standoff was, in the end the reality of MAD kept the superpowers mostly in check; what wars there were, such as Korea, Vietnam, etc., resulted in loss of life that paled in comparison to what the world would have experienced IMO without the threat of armageddon if the superpowers had lost control. Getting rid of lots of nuclear arms is good; all nuclear arms, not so much.

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Well this is all interesting but rather unfocused, so let me pose a question to anyone interested in the topic: in your opinion, were the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki justified?  Reading between the lines, I'd say The Hersch's answer is "no", and Rocks' answer is "yes".  Can either of you elaborate?  Anyone else?

Can there be such a thing as a justifiable atrocity?

My answer is "I don't know." I also think that a *lot* of people don't know, and yet they express strong feelings about it anyway, just like any other emotional, political topic - that's human nature, I suppose, and I think it takes a lot of intellectual maturity to answer honestly about a given subject that you'd *love* to know about: "I don't know."

One of my good friends had had children, and was looking to buy a larger house. He had a good job with a high income, but only recently began to make enough money where most people would consider him "wealthy." We were discussing one particular house, and his response to me was, "I can't afford it." I cannot tell you how much respect he earned from me at that moment. There are plenty of people out there who treat debt as if it's some sort of God-given right and not a problem - well, they're wrong, and it's that same type of cavalier, egocentrical attitude that leads people into "always being right" about an issue, when their knowledge is, in fact, quite limited.

So, my full answer is: "I don't know enough about the facts surrounding the issue to voice a credible opinion."

I don't know when history forgot this, but can we please say "killing 11 million people"? Because when we talk about "6 million Jews" we are forgetting about 5 million - 5,000,000! - FIVE MILLION others who died in the same holocaust Thanks. 

However, I do know this: More Chinese people died during WWII than from any other nation with the possible exception of the U.S.S.R. - I've heard reports of up to 20,000,000; you can do your own research, and reach your own conclusions as to "why" they died. As for The Rape of Nanking, I guess that was pre-WWII, and as much as I'd like to ask Iris Chang, the author of the book "The Rape Of Nanking,", she committed suicide and isn't available.

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...

However, I do know this: More Chinese people died during WWII than from any other nation with the possible exception of the U.S.S.R. - I've heard reports of up to 20,000,000; you can do your own research, and reach your own conclusions as to "why" they died. As for The Rape of Nanking, I guess that was pre-WWII, and as much as I'd like to ask Iris Chang, the author of the book "The Rape Of Nanking,", she committed suicide and isn't available.

Purely a personal opinion others obviously don't share but, as much as I love having discussions like the one on this thread in person, I think the web is a very poor medium for topics like this.  Again, that's neither right nor wrong; just my own bias for several reasons unique to me.

That said, I've quoted the last part of Rocks' most recent post simply because I was about to post the same.  Whatever one's views about genocide and horrific crimes against humanity relative to war, good to consider a wide variety of examples and regions.  As I read through the thread above (with great interest), it did feel very WWII/Europe and Japan centric.  Iris Chang was percolating in my thoughts by the 2nd post so glad to see that Don included her work, which was so important to shine light on a lesser-known genocide in the west.

I'll add <a data-ipb="nomediaparse" data-cke-saved-href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/King_Leopold" href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/King_Leopold" s_ghost"="">one more to the mix (there are still dozens of others through history obviously).  Very rough guesses on this one put the death toll at 10,000,000 and, while war was a contributing factor, commercial greed and corruption were even bigger propellants.  A book as important as Iris Chang's, in my humblest of opinions.

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  As I read through the thread above (with great interest), it did feel very WWII/Europe and Japan centric.

Well, that's because it started as a thread specifically about the atomic bombings, then immediately went off course, so Rocks started another thread, and then those were both merged into this thread (and I don't blame Rocks at all for doing it, because the discussion was all over the place).  Which is why I re-stated my question.  And I thank johnb and Rocks for taking a stab at answering it.  But it looks like I won't get the discussion I wanted...

For some reason, many people see WWII as "the good war" (as Studs Terkel dubbed it, maybe it's his fault), and forget about the enormity of it.

Yesterday was the 70th anniversary of V-E day.  In four months we'll see the 70th anniversary of V-J day.  It's worth taking a few moments to ponder this period of history.  Can any of us truly imagine what life must have been like then, even in the US where people had it relatively easy?  I don't think we can appreciate it.  Next time you* complain that the grocery store near you is out of your favorite brand of cheesy poufs, think about how your parents/grandparents made do with food rationing and gasoline rationing.

*that's "you" in the general sense of anyone reading this, not darkstar965 in particular

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Well, that's because it started as a thread specifically about the atomic bombings, then immediately went off course, so Rocks started another thread, and then those were both merged into this thread (and I don't blame Rocks at all for doing it, because the discussion was all over the place).  Which is why I re-stated my question.  And I thank johnb and Rocks for taking a stab at answering it.  But it looks like I won't get the discussion I wanted...

For some reason, many people see WWII as "the good war" (as Studs Terkel dubbed it, maybe it's his fault), and forget about the enormity of it.

Yesterday was the 70th anniversary of V-E day.  In four months we'll see the 70th anniversary of V-J day.  It's worth taking a few moments to ponder this period of history.  Can any of us truly imagine what life must have been like then, even in the US where people had it relatively easy?  I don't think we can appreciate it.  Next time you* complain that the grocery store near you is out of your favorite brand of cheesy poufs, think about how your parents/grandparents made do with food rationing and gasoline rationing.

*that's "you" in the general sense of anyone reading this, not darkstar965 in particular

[We can try this again if everyone wants to stay on topic; if not, we're either going to have 50 different threads (which will tick people off), or one rambling vent (which is what this had turned into, and will also tick people off). I exited this thread yesterday morning except to answer your one question, and now look at it as the "On A Whim" thread of the History forum. The only way I could moderate this is with a heavy hand, so I decided not to moderate it at all. I did try, however!

I'll be happy to "reshuffle the cards" and deal them out via PM, and we can start again, but we've either got to stay on-topic, or everyone has to agree not to get mad at me for splitting things up and deleting political diatribes. I know, I know, some people can't imagine this is anything other than an allied war crime, and they just have to make that fact known to all (if it's so obvious, why make it?)

It was like herding cats that hadn't been declawed. I was going to put this at the top of my first post:

Mars01.gif]

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Well this is all interesting but rather unfocused, so let me pose a question to anyone interested in the topic: in your opinion, were the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki justified?  Reading between the lines, I'd say The Hersch's answer is "no", and Rocks' answer is "yes".  Can either of you elaborate?  Anyone else?

Can there be such a thing as a justifiable atrocity?

As I tried to say before, the atomic bombings weren't really different, qualitatively or morally, or even quantitatively when it comes to that, from all the other bombing of civilian population centers during the War. (Which is also to say that nothing I've posted in this thread has been meaningfully off-topic.) The atomic bombs were more attention-grabbing, I suppose, but essentially accomplished the same things: destroying cities and killing their people. The Allies were obviously not the only ones killing a lot of civilians, but did without question adopt the killing of a lot of civilians as policy.

Let me say again, the German and Japanese regimes committed unspeakable crimes, which deserve all the opprobrium attached to them, and for which the German and Japanese people should feel a certain collective shame, though for the most part not, at this remove, guilt. But to pass moral judgment on the "other side" without being willing to consider the morality of the behavior of one's own side is a species of depravity, in my opinion. How can one justify, as a matter of morals, burning thousands of infants and schoolchildren alive? I wouldn't care to be on that side of an argument. I suppose you could make a military or strategic argument for burning babies alive, but how could you make a moral argument? Better a thousand of their babies should die than a thousand of our soldiers? Could a professing Christian make that argument? A Jew? A humanist? Abraham Lincoln?

International law developed and changed in many ways in the aftermath of the Second World War, with the Nuremberg trials and the 1949 Geneva Convention especially, but for a long time it has been a principle of the law of nations that acts prohibited to states cannot be justified with claims of exigency, which is what all the justifications for the destruction of cities in the War come down to. So considered legally or morally, I can't reconcile the Allied bombing campaigns, nuclear or conventional, with justice.

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This brings up a corollary issue, i.e. nuclear disarmament.  It has been said that the main impact of getting rid of all nuclear weapons would be to make the world safe for conventional warfare, the kind that led to 60 million deaths in the course of WWII and millions more during the rest of the first half of the 20th century.  I think that is true.  If one were to look at a graph of the number of lives lost in warfare year by year through the 20th century, one would notice a sudden, marked, and sustained drop around late 1945.  That is not a coincidence.  As upsetting as the cold war standoff was, in the end the reality of MAD kept the superpowers mostly in check; what wars there were, such as Korea, Vietnam, etc., resulted in loss of life that paled in comparison to what the world would have experienced IMO without the threat of armageddon if the superpowers had lost control. Getting rid of lots of nuclear arms is good; all nuclear arms, not so much.  

I agree with this several thousand percent. It's unfortunate that the relative peace achieved through nuclear weapons also involves the possibility of nuclear annihilation, but there you go. Trade-offs.

But given the truth of this, it's hard for me to understand why it would be worse to have both Israel and Iran armed with nuclear weapons rather than Israel alone.

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But given the truth of this, it's hard for me to understand why it would be worse to have both Israel and Iran armed with nuclear weapons rather than Israel alone.

Bingo!

Of course, everything depends upon them both acting like rational powers, not like small-time hoodlums.  Which would it be?

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Well this is all interesting but rather unfocused, so let me pose a question to anyone interested in the topic: in your opinion, were the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki justified?  Reading between the lines, I'd say The Hersch's answer is "no", and Rocks' answer is "yes".  Can either of you elaborate?  Anyone else?

Can there be such a thing as a justifiable atrocity?

First let me say this type of issue is intrinsically political and in a web environment often devolves into a very ugly thread.

I believe in the current environment and in past environments there are forces "out there" that never approach thinking about weighing the moral equivalent of killing 100,000 of their babies versus 100,000 of our babies or our soldiers or any of our people.  That type of thought never enters their thoughts, their propaganda, or their actions.

In WWII the Nazi's branded other non German people as inferior and their stated goals, their propaganda to their own people was to wipe out entire huge populations:  6 million jews, about 2 million Ukranians, some hundreds of thousands of Gypsies, and the list goes on.

They were wiping out peoples and they weren't stopping.  They controlled Europe, they were smashing their way through Russia, they were wiping out any race they considered subhuman and at no point were they stopping to consider the morality of "wiping out" 100,000 of ours versus 100,000 of theirs.

In that environment you do whatever you can to stop them.  One horrendous effort was firebombing German cities and population centers.  One other effort that cost up to millions of lives was you allow them to work their way through Russia in the dead of Winter and you sacrifice millions in slowing them as you also manage to kill them off and stretch their supply lines as they fight endlessly.  Millions die.

In the far East the Japanese slaughtered and enslaved millions in their conquest efforts.  As their military forces were ultimately pushed back, island by island, each battle costing untold lives and destruction, along with their dedication to fighting to the last person alive, you are left with choices on how to proceed and what is the cost.  The A bombs were one choice.

It hastened the end of the war.  Certainly untold numbers of both other Japanese and Americans were saved as the war ended quickly.

I think you do what you have to do....and you try different things to get a result that "saves" your people and your society.

In today's world there are murderers who are beheading people, setting them on fire, enslaving them, marching into schools and wantonly killing as many little children as possible, and  sending murderers on suicide missions that ended up killing about 3,000 people in mainland America.

You do what you need to do to stop them.

Now I say all that having been on a student deferment during the Vietnam period with a low enough draft number that I would have been drafted without the deferment, having been against that war involvement with crappy American reasons for being there, having been for the US to go into Afghanistan, and having personally struggled with the "reasons" for going to war into Iraq, later to learn that the reasons were falsified.

All that being said, you keep moving forward, evaluate what it takes to maintain safety and move forward with decisions being made as to what might work or not.

To get back to Porcupine's question I think that in 1945 the specific decision to use the Atomic weapons was justified considering the time and circumstances, and the unknowns and potential costs in lives concerning a potential invasion of Japan.

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