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Letters: Debating Hiroshima as Obama visits

An Allied correspondent stands on Sept. 8, 1945,

An Allied correspondent stands on Sept. 8, 1945, in the rubble in front of the shell of a building that once was a movie theater in Hiroshima, Japan, a month after the first atomic bomb ever used in warfare was dropped by the United States on Monday, Aug. 6, 1945. Credit: AP / Stanley Troutman

President Barack Obama plans Friday to become the first sitting American president to visit Hiroshima, the first Japanese city on which our country dropped the atom bomb [“More of the same in Hiroshima trip,” Opinion, May 23]. Most, if not all, of the dead were civilians, including children.

We view 9/11 as a tragedy, and it was. But comparing that to the 220,000 killed in the atom bombings on Japan, one must grasp the disparity in the loss of life. Most of those Japanese were as innocent as the Sept. 11 victims.

How much does it matter that we were at war with a vicious enemy? The decision was made to kill innocent people for the sake of ending the war with Japan and saving American lives, and hopefully, a decision like that will never have to be made again, not only for its moral aspects, but also because in today’s world, with advanced military technology possessed by various countries, everyone is vulnerable to retaliatory attacks. We must consider our own well-being if and when we should consider such extreme measures against others.

Robert Wilson, West Islip


The thought of the United States apologizing for dropping the bomb on Hiroshima — an act that probably saved millions of lives — is ludicrous [“U.S. owes apology for Hiroshima, Nagasaki,” Opinion, May 21].

Japan was willing to sacrifice civilians when the American invasion came. Japan was teaching its schoolchildren how to use bayonets. American casualties topped 1 million killed or wounded during World War II.

More than 70 years later, it’s easy to play revisionist history, but don’t forget the Japanese were responsible for the Bataan Death March just a few years earlier, in which Filipino and American troops were forced to march more than 60 miles to prison camps — as well as scores of other atrocities.

Another reason dropping the bomb was the right thing to do is a personal one for me. After fighting the Germans in France, my father was being shipped to the Pacific to fight Japan. I’m willing to bet there was not one guy in his position who thought dropping the bomb was a bad idea.

Chris Connors, Amityville


President Harry S. Truman made the right decision. He had to think of the U.S. and Allied lives he would save by ending the war without invading Japan.

Writer Rosario A. Iaconis states that because Japan was “almost defeated” militarily, we did not have to drop atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Ask any soldier or sailor who was in the Pacific, or one who was going to be sent there from Europe, what he thought of Truman’s decision. I served with some of these soldiers in the early 1960s. They said they owed their lives to Truman for being so courageous.

If anyone owes an apology for the loss of civilian life at Hiroshima or Nagasaki, it’s the Japanese military, not the United States.

Bob Southard, South Setauket


There should be an international statute of limitations on nations apologizing to other nations for hurtful acts. Any apologies now from the United States to Japan for the atomic bombings would surely have exceeded such a statute.

An apology from President Barack Obama would be meaningless because he has no connection to the events or the people of that day. The only acceptable apology, if one were necessary, would have to have come from President Harry S. Truman, who went to his grave believing, as did countless others, that he did the right thing to end the war.

We can only surmise how the war would have concluded if we did not use the bombs, but we certainly know one concrete result, and that is that the bombs were so devastating, no nation has used one again in war.

Michael Fitzpatrick, Massapequa Park


Rosario A. Iaconis argues that the United States must apologize to Japan for the use of atomic weapons. This position is neither required nor tenable. Truth be told, Japan needs to thank the United States for bringing the war to a speedy close for both sides.

The reality of the time centered on an already bloody Pacific campaign. Millions of Americans and their allies, as well as the Japanese, were spared the horrors of a bloodier invasion of the Japanese home islands.

Also of note is Iaconis’ concept of ius in bello — justice in war. Japan was willing and did ignore that concept when it persuaded — and in most cases ordered — civilians to take their own lives rather than surrender to the Americans at the closing moments of the Battle of Okinawa.

If Iaconis got anything correct, it’s the fact that a Cold War world was created, so that atomic weapons would not be the first — and if possible, would be the last — resort when military force transcends diplomatic politics.

Anthony J. Piscitelli, Throggs Neck

Editor’s note: The writer is an adjunct professor at SUNY Maritime College.