Wars Cannot Be Won by Destroying Women and Children

An estimated 40,000 people gathered in Hiroshima, Japan this morning, when, at 8:15 am, a solitary temple bell tolled, marking the exact moment that a U.S. B-29 bomber dropped the first atomic bomb ever used in warfare on the city of Hiroshima below, on August 6, 1945.

70,000 people died instantly that morning, with that number doubling in the explosion’s aftermath.

That the dropping of the bomb was of military necessity to end the war and save tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands of American lives that might be lost in an invasion of Japan has long been central to the architecture of the great myth of American exceptionalism.

But it did not have to happen.

Referring to Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson, former President Dwight D. Eisenhower wrote in Mandate for Change (1963) that:

During his recitation of the relevant facts, I had been conscious of a feeling of depression and so I voiced to him my grave misgivings, first on the basis of my belief that Japan was already defeated and that dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary, and secondly because I thought that our country should avoid shocking world opinion by the use of a weapon whose employment was, I thought, no longer mandatory as a measure to save American lives. It was my belief that Japan was, at that very moment, seeking some way to surrender with a minimum loss of “face”

– from The Decision to Drop the Atomic Bomb, by Gar Alperovitz (1995)


Wrote William D. Leahy, Fleet Admiral, U.S. Navy and Chief of Staff to President Truman:

It is my opinion that the use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender…

My own feeling was that in being the first to use it, we had adopted an ethical standard common to the barbarians of the Dark Ages. I was not taught to make war in that fashion, and wars cannot be won by destroying women and children…

– from The Decision to Drop the Atomic Bomb, by Gar Alperovitz (1995)

For more on the decision to drop the bomb, read The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb by Gar Alperovitz and Hiroshima by Ronald Takaki. For a more recent work, read Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick’s section on the dropping of the bomb in their The Untold History of the United States.


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