Sunday, May 3, 2009

Commentary: A History Lesson for Jon Stewart

Front side of OWI notice #2106, dubbed the “LeMay bombing leaflet,” which was delivered to Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and 33 other Japanese cities on 1 August 1945. The Japanese text on the reverse side of the leaflet carried the warning is quoted within the article below. (Photo: CIA Web site.)


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.7

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
Following this rejection, the U.S. began warning Japanese citizens of imminent bombing missions despite the dangers created to airmen by the warnings:
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.

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.
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.

(Report from a story that appeared at the NewsBusters Web site and CIA sources.)

Suggested Reading:
CIA: The Information War in the Pacific, 1945

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Blogger Captain Morgan said...

I think perhaps you misunderstood what he said. He said he was a war criminal. He did not say they were not warned. If I warn you that I'm going to murder you.. and I do.. that does not save me from being a murderer. So you spent all that article proving that they were warned. What relevance does that have to the motives? And as long as we're checking facts how come no where in that article did you not mention the fact that all international vessles were warned not to travel in that area.

Perhaps, a footnote should be added to your post about the difference between saying, "Hey, if you do this.. we will bomb you. Anyone. Anyone who goes here gets attacked."-vs-"Hey, I'm going to do this in a couple of days."

America did everything possible to piss off Japan. It seized trade for one which can be considered an act of war.

In conclusion, Jon Stewart does not need a history lesson. He simply stated he was a war criminal. Your article simply addressed his warning them and telling them to surrender. I hardly think that's an argument against war crimes.

One more thing.. I might have missed something in history class but not in this article. Though, I do thank you for letting me he warned them before he massacred them.

//You're a good writer.. I will continue to stop by even if I disagree with you.//

10:09 PM EDT  
Anonymous MoJo said...

I think that the article responded rather narrowly to Stewart's statement (which is quoted and linked by video) regarding the failure to give a warning.

The thesis here is simply in the kernel of a history lesson, fully attributed and documented through sources.

So much history taught in schools is interpreted and revisionist that we can't fault Stewart (or many folks for that matter) for their lack of understanding.

I'm surprised that the blogger didn't take President Obama to task for his recent revisionist statements regarding Churchill and torture.

It's interesting that British brutality in Africa is well documented and Churchill suppressed a rebellion in Kenya.

Perhaps that's why one of the first things Obama did when moving into the White House was ship back a bust of Churchill that had been presented to W.

11:11 PM EDT  
Blogger Alan Drye said...

In respnse to Mr. Morgan.

Do you not understand? The leaflet told the Japanese people to leave the cities.

It is not like sending a letter to someone saying "I'm gonna kill you in two days" and then killing them in two days, it is more like saying "get out of your house, we are going to burn it because there is an evil person inside, we do not want to kill you, just the bad person, so please leave."

This evidenced by direct quotes from the leaflet "America is not fighting the Japanese people but is fighting the military clique, which has enslaved the Japanese people."

It was not possible to hit millitary instillations without also endangering civilians. The soldiers don't run the factories that make torpedoes, the civilians do.
The factories were woven into the civilian population (this is not a case of using civilian shields, just common sense, where factories are established, so are towns where the workers live, soldiers do not build their war machines).

You also say that "America did everything possible to piss Japan off" but realize that japan was making brutal land grabs to the innocent people of the surrounding lands.

We were not trying to provoke Japan, more like we were just trying to support our allies (and not necessarily allies, but everyone who was being oppressed by the Japanese) who had been unrightfully conquered in the East: China for instance.

What would you have us do instead? You say that we should not have "seized trade." Well, if we did not, we would be letting Japan do its Brutal Dance through Asia because wouldn't want to get te Japanese angry. Wouldn't we be considered worse, and cowards, for not protecting the free people who were being enslaved by the Japanese?

We were the only main power who fought Japan during the war, everyone else (England, Soviets) was concerned with Europe. If we did not go to war with Japan, the Japanese would have continued to conquer unopposed.

For example, look up the "Rape of Naking" also known as "The Naking Massacre" which occured only a few years Before the war.

I would be ashamed if we Had Not frozen Japanese assets on July 26, 1940.

2:05 PM EST  
Anonymous morgan said...

all of that is a good point.. however.. are we cowards now and since for north korea, iraq, palastine, afghanastan, and so on and so on..?

7:48 PM EST  

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