History is full of man’s stupidity and mistakes, full of sufferings and grief although not entirely for History has its uplifting moments, episodes of courage, of heroic actions. History enlightens and demoralises. It is a two-edge sword like so many other two-edg swords. But I am not here to add to the lists of quotations about History. I am here as a History tutor to share my thoughts on some of the controversies of modern history.
Foremost of all is the dropping of the two atomic bombs on Japan by Truman. I named him specifically because he made the decision not only to use the bomb with its devastating power but to use it twice – Little Boy on Hiroshima (August 6, 1945) and Fat Man on Nagasaki (9 August 1945). One would have suffice. Why didn’t he give the Japanese a chance to surrender after the first one. Little Boy killed 100,000 people immediately! Tens of thousands more died from wounds, burns and effects of the radiation many years later. Then of course there is the question of how did he not see that the Emperor was ready to surrender? Are there other motives involved in the brutal unleashing of the atomic bombs on Japan. Racism? Some argue that it was to demonstrate the fearsome power of American military superiority to the Russians.
With regards to the argument that the Japanese government especially the army had refused to surrender and were determined to fight on, the reality was furthest from the truth. The wish would still be burning in the chests of the far-right elements of the military but it was clear that the army could no longer fight anymore. Even Eisenhower, together with many Americans at that time was, convinced that Japan was close to surrender and that the use of the atomic bomb was unnecessary. Since 1945, many more questioned Truman’s decision. Such revisionists arguments are persuasive for Japan could not have avoided surrender much longer. The submarine blockade and the firebombing attacks had completely reduced her ability to make war and had caused great suffering. The Unites States Strategic Bombing Survery after the war stated flatly that Japan could not have continued the struggle beyond the end of 1945, even without the use of the bomb (one bomb)!
For my next part in the series on History Controversies, I will touch on the loss of Eastern Europe at Yalta. Yes who could forget the loss of Eastern Europe at Yalta. Roosevelt holding meetings with Stalin, deliberately excluding Churchill. Imagine how the stupid decision by one dying man sent millions of Eastern Europe to the depths of depair and the heroic but ill-fated uprisings in Hungary and Czechoslovakia and the silent sufferings and losses of the invisible masses.
History is interesting and holds us spellbound – but what is fascinating to us and many others before us, is terrifying to those caught in that period.
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