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This excellent documentary takes the view that the atomic bombs were
primarily to scare the Soviets. Stewart Udall, being interviewed toward
the end of the show,
even gives his opinion that the atomic bomb prolonged the war, as the
Japanese had been
trying to surrender for months but the Americans weren't ready to accept
surrender until they had a chance to demonstrate the Bomb.
The documentary contains interviews with many people involved in this part of history from Hans Bethe and Edward Teller (who were involved in creating the atomic bomb) to several Japanese victims of the bombs as well as crew members of the B-29's that dropped the bombs. There are also interviews with aides to policy makers (as most of the policy makers of the day are now dead). The interviews are cut with archival footage of the events of the time: speeches by Harry Truman, scenes of Okinawa, the Soviet invasion of Manchuria, etc. Much of the imagery, especially of the aftermath of the atomic bomb attacks, is very graphic.
I found this to be an interesting documentary, but where was the proof?
We were told Japan sent an emissary to the Soviet Union to seek peace,
and shown undated pictures of an Asian man in a room with Stalin. How
about some actual documents or notes from these purported discussions?
While claiming element in the Japanese government wanted to surrender,
no documentary proof was presented. By the time this show was produced,
the former Soviet archives could have produced some enlightening
documents, which could have embarrassed America, but none were seen.
Indeed,even after the two horrific bombings, the show reports some
elements of the Japanese military still fanatically wanted to continue
fighting by trying to prevent the Emperor's surrender from being heard.
Also, these documentaries are interesting because of the casualty numbers, which no one really knows. If they are trying to make America look bad, the absolute highest casualty figures are used; when documentaries are made to make the US look good, the numbers are at the low end of the scale. The truth probably lies in between.
Also, the documentary states that after surrender, Hirohito was allowed to remain on the throne, implying that his status did not change. When he went to bed the night of Aug. 13, 1945, he was a living god to the Japanese. On Aug. 14 as his recordings announced Japan's surrender, he was transformed into a mortal, and allowed to keep his throne only as a ceremonial post, hardly what the show leads us to believe as it discusses supposed conditions for an "unconditional surrender." Japan was no doubt in such a weakened state that it indeed would have collapsed within months, as the documentary reports. However, how many more soldiers from both sides and Japanese civilians would have died in the interim? And as terrible as the cost of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was, did that prevent a later nuclear conflict, perhaps in October 1962, which surely would have been more catastrophic for the entire world? It's one of the world's favorite games, "What If ...." Japan could have surrendered at any point; its leadership chose the time to do so.
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