UPDATE: (10 October 2006 A.D.) Originally this post was posted to an experimental blog run by my brother and myself. Since that blog has died, I am moving the post here.

Original Post:

Sixty years ago today, a B-29 bomber of the United States Army Air Force (the United States Air Force wasn't made it's own service branch until 1947) departed the island of Tinian. The plane was commanded by Colonel Paul Tibbets, and it's name is etched deeply into history: Enola Gay. We know the name because the plane delivered the first nuclear bomb and used it against a populated target.

Yesterday, the headline on the Tallahassee Democrat caught my eye: "Hiroshima: 60 Years After the Bomb". Tonight, the CBS Evening News covered briefly the releasing of paper lanterns onto a river in Hiroshima before talking with 2 of the 3 surviving crewmen of the Enola Gay (The story is not yet linked on the CBS News website. I remember the name of "Dutch" Van Kirk, but I don't remember the name of the other crewman.).

Sixty years have passed, and yet, there is still debate on whether the United States was justified in using the "Little Boy" uranium fission bomb on Hiroshima and the "Fat Man" plutonium fission bomb on Nagasaki. Many feel that we shouldn't have dropped the bombs, and many feel we were justified. Sixty years have healed some wounds, but many others remain open.

I feel that the United States was justified in their use of the nuclear weapons in August 1945. It's unfortunate that the Pandora's box of nuclear weapons was opened, but given the situation, it had to be. In August 1945, the United States had finished a costly, three-month long invasion of the island of Okinawa and was facing an invasion of the Japanese main islands. The invasion of Okinawa cost the Japanese more than 110,000 troops, and 18,900 American troops were killed or missing. Secretary of War Henry Stimson estimated in 1946 that more than 1 million (106) American troops would have been killed in an invasion of the Japanese home islands. Finally, it is often overlooked that the Japanese had started their own Manhattan Project in July 1941. On 9 October 1941, Franklin D. Roosevelt authorized American scientists to start production of a nuclear weapon, and the National Defense Research Committee started the S-1 Committee to guide production on 6 December 1941.

I do have a very personal reason as well for supporting the use of nuclear weapons in August 1945. Grant E. Wolfgang, my paternal grandfather, was stationed in the Pacific Theater during World War II. He probably would have been deployed to the Japanese Home Islands in Operation Downfall. Would he have perished in the invasion? I don't know. I do know that he suffered through malaria as a result of his service in the Pacific Theater and that he rarely talked about his service. I am thankful that the war was ended without an invasion of the Japanese Home Islands.

One of the crewmen of the Enola Gay interviewed on the CBS Evening News noted that the nuclear bomb detonations were terrible, but necessary. He hoped that terrorists never obtained nuclear weapons. I pray they don't either. The nuclear detonations of August 1945, which killed 160,000 Japanese at Hiroshima and 80,000 at Nagasaki, should stand as a stern reminder of the terrible and destructive power of nuclear weapons. With this reminder in hand, we should seek to limit their spread as a matter of top priority.

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