by Bob Wheeler
Today is, of course, Memorial Day, the day on which we remember the servicemen and women who have given their lives for the sake of our country. It is also significant that just this past Friday President Obama became the first sitting U.S. President to visit Hiroshima, the site of the first atomic bomb attack which occurred on August 6, 1945, an explosion that took the lives of 144,000 people, including many civilians: men, women and children among them.
It is a sensitive issue. Many of the relatives of the victims would like to have heard an apology from the President, although the Japanese government did not ask for one. Many others in the region, on the other hand, including both China and South Korea, condemn Japan for starting the war in the first place. Who is right?
The final decision to drop the bomb was mad by President Harry S. Truman. He had just become president upon the death of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt on April 12, 1945. As vice president Truman had not been informed of the A-bomb. After the bomb had been successfully tested in July, if fell to Truman to decide how to use it. He appointed a committee which weighed the options.
It was decided that the bomb would have to be used in a populated area with no prior warning in order to maximize the psychological effect and induce Japan to surrender. The alternative, it was feared, would have been a long, costly invasion of the Japanese homeland. The Japanese military was determined to fight to the bitter end. Japanese military and industrial installations were scattered throughout populated areas; civilian casualties were unavoidable. Intensive firebombing of Japanese cities had already taken a fearful toll. Thus Truman was faced with a kind of grim calculus: how could he end the war by killing the fewest people? In the end it appeared better to get it over with quickly with a single, devastating blow. The decision was made to drop the bomb on a mixed military and civilian target.
History was changed forever. The world would never be the same. By 1949 the Soviet Union had acquired an atomic bomb of its own, and the “Cold War” ensued. I can remember as a schoolboy air-raid drills and fallout shelters, as we prepared for a possible nuclear holocaust. The old Soviet Union is gone now, but other nations have the bomb, including longtime rivals India and Pakistan; and others are trying to get one, including both North Korea and Iran. If anything the world today is a more dangerous place in which to live than in was in 1945.
Technology changes; human nature does not. Today we drive cars and fly planes; we watch TV and surf the Internet. But at heart we are still the same sinful human beings as we were when Cain slew Abel. Today we simply have more sophisticated and devastating weapons to throw at each other than we did before. That hardly makes us more civilized.
Our Creator has made us in His image, and for that reason human life is sacred. God expects us to use every means at our disposal to preserve life. The wanton destruction of human life is immoral. But lasting peace will come only when we change inwardly, and only the grace of God at work in our hearts can accomplish that. On this Memorial Day may we look to the Prince of Peace, the only real hope of mankind.