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Hiroshima and Nagasaki

On other occasions, Truman claimed that Hiroshima was bombed because it was an industrial center. But, as noted in the U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey, "all major factories in Hiroshima were on the periphery of the city – and escaped serious damage."90 The target was the center of the city. That Truman realized the kind of victims the bombs consumed is evident from his comment to his cabinet on August 10, explaining his reluctance to drop a third bomb: "The thought of wiping out another 100,000 people was too horrible," he said; he didn't like the idea of killing "all those kids."91 Wiping out another one hundred thousand people . . . all those kids. Moreover, the notion that Hiroshima was a major military or industrial center is implausible on the face of it. The city had remained untouched through years of devastating air attacks on the Japanese home islands, and never figured in Bomber Command's list of the 33 primary targets.92 Thus, the rationale for the atomic bombings has come to rest on a single colossal fabrication, which has gained surprising currency: that they were necessary in order to save a half-million or more American lives. These, supposedly, are the lives that would have been lost in the planned invasion of Kyushu in December, then in the all-out invasion of Honshu the next year, if that was needed. But the worst-case scenario for a full-scale invasion of the Japanese home islands was forty-six thousand American lives lost.93 The ridiculously inflated figure of a half-million for the potential death toll – nearly twice the total of U.S. dead in all theaters in the Second World War – is now routinely repeated in high-school and college textbooks and bandied about by ignorant commentators. Unsurprisingly, the prize for sheer fatuousness on this score goes to President George H.W. Bush, who claimed in 1991 that dropping the bomb "spared millions of American lives."94

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