On my port visit to Sasebo, Japan, during my Navy service, I decided to take a tour of Nagasaki. Standing at ground zero of this city was an unexpectedly deeply moving experience for me, one that I will never forget. The U.S. Army photos displayed there of mangled, radiation-poisoned bodies will haunt me forever.
It was a horrendous decision to drop the bomb. Anyone who visits Nagasaki or Hiroshima and does not agree has lost all humanity.
Obama is visiting Hiroshima and some of my right-wing friends are having a hissy fit about it. Many claim this is a “slap in the face to veterans,” though many of them are not veterans themselves, so it’s unclear how they can speak for veterans.
As a veteran I have debated whether dropping the bomb was the right thing to do. I always thought Harry Truman did a lot of good as President but how could I reconcile his decision to nuke hundreds of thousands of people with his good deeds? I’ve since grudgingly come to think it was the right call, given the fanaticism in Japan at the time. Casualties from an invasion of Japan (proposed as Operation Downfall) would have been from 500,000 to over a million in bloody, take-no-prisoners fighting.
So Truman’s decision most likely saved lives, though it brought the world the madness of nuclear weapons. It was a decision we’re still paying for today.
It’s easy to second-guess President Truman today since things look so much different from our perspective. The war, however, has long been over. Japan and America are close friends and important allies.
Should Obama apologize? I really don’t care either way. The only people who do care are the ones who just can’t let go.