My opinion, rigid in the best left-wing tradition, was based on ignorance and a total lack of reading or study. After college, when I began my real education, I talked to people who'd been involved and opened myself to different kinds of testimony, and gradually, my opinion changed. (No small part of this transformation was based on a deeper study of Jewish history and religion.)
Perhaps the first warning bell was sounded after I read Paul Fussell's brilliant – though initially infuriating – essay titled "Thank God for the Atom Bomb," which appeared in The New Republic. I was shocked by his contention that, as a young soldier ready to be shipped out, he would forever feel grateful to the bomb, since it saved his life.
My anger knew no bounds until I spoke to a former professor, still very much of the left, who said he understood all the feelings expressed in the essay. He'd been a high school senior in 1945, and knew that come graduation, he'd be drafted and would have to fight. He said that people were saying that the war in the Pacific could go on for another 10 years after the invasion of Japan. He, too, felt thankful for the bomb, if that could be fathomed.
Then I heard people – former Japanese prisoners of war, both women and men – talk about how they, too, were saved by the bomb. One woman I heard speak on an anniversary of Hiroshima said that if she and others she knew had had to withstand even a few more weeks in the camps – I forget where she was imprisoned – they would have died. After the bomb hit, they rejoiced.
I, of course, had only known of Jewish inmates in European camps. I understood that I had a great deal of reading to do; what I eventually learned humbled me.
Now comes The Weekly Standard of Aug. 8, with a cover story by historian Richard B. Frank on the secret intercepts that show why President Truman decided to use nuclear weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Here is the gist of the piece: After the 1960s, a critical revisionism started to set in about dropping the bomb. Three premises took prominence: that Japan's situation in 1945 was "catastrophically hopeless"; that Japan's leaders understood this and wished to surrender; and that, "thanks to decoded Japanese diplomatic messages," America's leaders knew this but unleashed "needless" weapons anyway.
Frank demonstrates that the newly released intercepts prove these premises totally false. The Japanese planned to fight on forever, and many more lives would have been lost.
There is much more information of a timely basis in the piece. It's an article of great importance that should be read for all of its wealth of insights and brave thesis.