Reflections on the A-Bomb Anniversary

There’s been a lot of chat about the anniversary of the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

I have visited Hiroshima several times and Nagasaki once. I have read many accounts of the horrors. I lived in Japan for 14 years and loved it.

But I always was uncomfortable with Japanese denial of any horrors that they perpetrated in the war.

There was never any mention of Japan’s imperialistic invasions of east and south Asia. Or the thousands of so-called “comfort women” of several Asian countries forced into servicing the Japanese army every place it invaded.

Any call for such recognition was met with threats of violence from right-wing Japanese groups, and that continues to this day.

While accurate numbers are hard to establish, the Japanese Imperial Army likely raped, tortured, and killed more civilians in the Nanjing Massacre alone than combined civilian deaths at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The conventional battles of the Pacific at places like Okinawa were also horrific, with a pervasive “fight to the last man” blindness by the Japanese army and marines. The Japanese military pressed local civilians into service, and it’s documented that civilians were forced to commit mass suicide by the Japanese military instead of being allowed to give up.

History is complex and complicated. Times and attitudes are always changing. Is there any point in debating the degree of horror of this massacre, to that genocide, to this bombing, to that. . .

I don’t know. But I believe that mass amnesia and denial is a slippery slope.

Japan has never had a Willy Brandt moment. . .