Commentary: A History Lesson for Jon Stewart
WASHINGTON, May 3, 2009 -- Historians have debated the issue for decades. However, Jon Stewart has no question about it: former President Harry S. Truman is a war criminal for dropping the atomic bomb on Hiroshima in 1945.
Stewart said as much on Tuesday's "The Daily Show" with the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies' Clifford May in an exchange about interrogation procedures.
While viewers were not subjected to the whole conversation, the entire interview was posted at Comedy Central's Web site.
Stewart said this:
Here's what I think of the atom bombs. I think if you dropped an atom bomb fifteen miles offshore and you said, "The next one's coming and hitting you," then I would think it's okay. To drop it on a city, and kill a hundred thousand people. Yeah. I think that's criminal.What was not discussed was how the Truman administration entertained a threatening trial bombing run offshore, but this was scrapped due to a number of concerns including the possibility that the weapons might not have worked and that Japan might not have surrendered -- even after witnessing an atomic blast off the coast.
Stewart has since apologized for his comments, but his remarks continue to evoke criticism and rebuttal.
One of those who took Stewart to task is PJTV's Bill Whittle who created a video on Friday, fully fact-checking the history involving America's decision to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945.
Whittle discussed how Japanese citizens were indeed warned about the coming bombings by millions of leaflets dropped on Japanese cities by the U.S. Office of War Information (OWI).
Included below is the translated text printed on the leaflet (pictured above):
Read this carefully as it may save your life or the life of a relative or friend. In the next few days, some or all of the cities named on the reverse side will be destroyed by American bombs. These cities contain military installations and workshops or factories which produce military goods. We are determined to destroy all of the tools of the military clique which they are using to prolong this useless war. But, unfortunately, bombs have no eyes. So, in accordance with America's humanitarian policies, the American Air Force, which does not wish to injure innocent people, now gives you warning to evacuate the cities named and save your lives. America is not fighting the Japanese people but is fighting the military clique which has enslaved the Japanese people. The peace which America will bring will free the people from the oppression of the military clique and mean the emergence of a new and better Japan. You can restore peace by demanding new and good leaders who will end the war. We cannot promise that only these cities will be among those attacked but some or all of them will be, so heed this warning and evacuate these cities immediately.Further research gleaned the following details at the CIA's Web site:
On 26 July 1945, the heads of state of the United States, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union, meeting in Potsdam, Germany, agreed to give Japan an opportunity to end the war.7Following this rejection, the U.S. began warning Japanese citizens of imminent bombing missions despite the dangers created to airmen by the warnings:
Their terms called for the disarmament and abolition of the Japanese military; elimination of military influence in political forums; Allied occupation of Japan; liberation of Pacific territories gained by Japan since 1914; swift justice for war criminals; maintenance of non-military industries; establishment of freedom of speech, religion and thought; and introduction of respect for fundamental human rights. The final section demanded that the government of Japan “proclaim now the unconditional surrender of all Japanese armed forces.” The alternative for Japan was “prompt and utter destruction.”8
By 7:00 p.m. on the very day of the Potsdam Proclamation, OWI’s station KSAI began broadcasting the surrender terms to the Japanese nation at regular intervals. OWI also printed the full text of the offer in the Japanese language and dropped over 3 million leaflets by B-29 aircraft. Thus Japanese officials learned of the Potsdam conditions a day ahead of the official communication sent through diplomatic channels.
Japan’s Cabinet and the Supreme Council for the Direction of the War were immediately called into joint session. They met almost continually from 26 July through 14 August. Arguments over whether, when, and under what conditions Japan should surrender continued right through the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. On 27 July, after a routine meeting not attended by Japan’s civilian Foreign Minister, the militarists released notification to the world’s media that Japan rejected the Potsdam offer. 9
By noon on 28 July, OWI’s presses on Saipan were rolling with notices warning civilians to evacuate 35 Japanese cities scheduled to be bombed within the next few days. About 1 million leaflets fell on the targeted cities whose names appeared in Japanese writing under a picture of five airborne B-29s releasing bombs. Given the extent of the effort, it is extraordinary that many Americans are not aware that Japanese cities were warned prior to being bombed. Even today, members of the B-29 crews recall their fears that the warnings would make them easier targets for Japanese planes and antiaircraft artillery. However, they concurred with Gen. Curtis LeMay’s proposal at the time.10 Military newspapers featured the unprecedented action under such headlines as “B-29 Command Now Calling Its Shots” and “580 B-29s Follow Up Leaflet Warnings With 3800 Tons Of Fire And Explosives.”11 Visualize what it must have been like for people in the targeted cities to look up and see more than 100 B-29 “Superfortresses” overhead. The image lends understanding to the Allies’ decision to warn civilians, even at their own risk.The warnings and bombings continued, Japan refused to surrender even after the atomic bomb attack on Hiroshima:
At 2:45 a.m. on 6 August, the Allies’ B-29 “Enola Gay” left the island of Tinian near Saipan. Its primary target was Hiroshima, where the 2nd Japanese Army stood poised to defend against an expected Allied invasion of their homeland. At 8:15 a.m., the “Enola Gay” destroyed Hiroshima with a single atomic bomb.The bottom line? Japanese citizens after the Potsdam offer were continually notified by the OWI of imminent bombings, which is certainly far more than American forces at Pearl Harbor were afforded on December 7, 1941.
Back on Saipan, the OWI presses were turning out leaflets that revealed the special nature of Hiroshima’s destruction and predicted similar fates for more Japanese cities in the absence of immediate acceptance of the terms of the Potsdam agreement. By 9 August, more than 5 million leaflets about the atom bomb had been released over major Japanese cities. The OWI radio station beamed a similar message to Japan every 15 minutes.
(Report from a story that appeared at the NewsBusters Web site and CIA sources.)
CIA: The Information War in the Pacific, 1945
Tags: DOD, Military, United States, U.S., History, Open Thread, Commentary, Headlines, Wire
Global Tags: Washington DC, News and Politics, News, Politics, Current Events, Current Affairs, Life, Culture, Buzz, Tension