The Hiroshima Myth and the Glorification of American Militarism

Gary G. Kohls, MD

This coming Wednesday, August 6, 2014, is the 69th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima, the whole truth of which has been heavily censored and mythologized ever since war-weary Americans celebrated V-J Day on August 15.
In the pitiful history lessons that were taught by my uninspired or bored history teachers (which seemed to be mainly ex-jocks whose real interest was coaching) came from patriotic and highly censored books where everything the British and US military ever did in the history of warfare was honorable and self-sacrificing and everything their opponents did was barbaric. Everybody in my graduating class of 26 swallowed the post-war propaganda in our history books. It was from these books that we learned about the “glorious” end of the war against Japan.
Of course, I now know that my high school classmates and I, just like most other Americans, including the volunteer members of the military, have been naïve victims of “lies our history teachers taught us”. Those teachers had likewise been misled by those who taught them their American history, which included war-justifying militarists and assorted uber-patriotic veterans and historians who refused to face the possibility that they had been duped and brain-washed into believing the myth of American exceptionalism. Included in that group were World War II “heroes” like General Douglas MacArthur, but not the 50,000 American soldier-members of The Greatest Generation who deserted or went AWOL during their war service, a reality that has been conveniently censored out of our consciousness.
One of MacArthur’s first acts after taking over as Viceroy of Japan was to confiscate and/or destroy all the photographic evidence documenting the horrors of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He imposed total censorship over journalists on the ground about what really happened at Ground Zero in those doomed cities, again proving the old adage that “the first casualty of war is truth”.
Back in 1995, the Smithsonian Institution was preparing to correct some of the 50-year-old pseudo-patriotic myths about the Pacific War by staging an honest, historically-accurate display dealing with the atomic bombings that dealt with stories from the Japanese civilian perspective.
Swift and well-orchestrated condemnations directed at the Smithsonian historian’s plans to tell unwelcome truths came from right-wing veterans and other militarist groups (including Newt Gingrich’s GOP-dominated Congress - that threatened to stop federal funding of the Institute). The Smithsonian was forced to censor-out all of the contextually important parts of the story, and the patriotic myths about the atomic bombings persist to this very day.
We historically-illiterate Americans are prevented, again and again, from learning “unpatriotic” historical truths that might shake our confidence in the ruling elite, the Pentagon and the conscienceless multinational corporations that control our politicians and the stock market.
And we can’t forget the government and corporate-controlled media that, through clever Big Lie techniques, orchestrated the near-total media black-out about the provable controlled demolitions of the three World Trade Center buildings on 9/11/01, explosions that killed thousands of innocent people and hundreds of confused and doomed firefighters, few of whom would have died without the thermite demolitions. The explosive collapses of the three buildings, and not the planes that hit two of them, unleashed the duped dogs of war against millions of innocent victims in Afghanistan and Iraq (explore for the  extensive documentation of that assertion that very few blinded patriots want to do).

Could the Okinawa Bloodbath Have Been Averted?
The Smithsonian historians did have a gun to their heads, of course, but in the melee, the corporate-controlled media - and therefore the public – failed to learn an important historical point, and that is this: The war in the Pacific could have ended in the spring of 1945 without the summer atomic bombs, and therefore there might have been no Okinawa bloodbath for thousands of American Marines and soldiers. Also there would have been no need for an American land invasion of Japan - the basis of the subsequent propaganda campaign that justified the use of atomic bombs on defenseless civilian populations (which, by the way, meets the definition of an international war crime and a crime against humanity). We hung a few of the perpetrators of international war crimes and crimes against humanity both in Germany and Japan, but those who ordered the civilian massacres at Hiroshima and Nagasaki were never even charged.
To the victors go the spoils, and they are also the ones running the war crimes tribunals and writing the history text books.
American intelligence, with the knowledge of President Roosevelt’s and President Truman’s administrations, was fully aware of Japan's desperate search for ways to honorably surrender months before Truman gave the fateful order to incinerate Hiroshima.
Intelligence data, revealed in the 1980s, showed that the contingency plans for a large-scale US invasion (planned for no sooner than November 1, 1945) would have been unnecessary (contrary to the propaganda lies about the necessity of using “the bomb” that we have all been taught).
Japan was working on peace negotiations through its Moscow ambassador as early as April of 1945, with some evidence of surrender feelers from Japan as far back as 1944. Truman knew of these developments because the US had broken the Japanese code years earlier, and all of Japan's military and diplomatic messages were being intercepted. On July 13, 1945, Foreign Minister Togo said: "Unconditional surrender (giving up all sovereignty, which included deposing the Emperor Hirohito) is the only obstacle to peace."
Truman and his advisors knew about these efforts, and the war could have ended through diplomacy by simply conceding a post-war figurehead position for the emperor – who was regarded as a deity in Japan. That reasonable concession was - seemingly illogically - refused by the US in their demands for unconditional surrender, which was first demanded at the 1943 Casablanca Conference between Roosevelt and Churchill and then reiterated at the Potsdam Conference between Truman, Churchill and Stalin. Still, the Japanese continued searching for an honorable peace through negotiations.
Even Secretary of War Henry Stimson, said: “the true question was not whether surrender could have been achieved without the use of the bomb but whether a different diplomatic and military course would have led to an earlier surrender. A large segment of the Japanese cabinet was ready in the spring of 1945 to accept substantially the same terms as those finally agreed on.” In other words, Stimson knew that the US had unnecessarily prolonged the war.
Japanese Leaders Were Looking for ways to Honorably Surrender
After Japan did surrender on August 15, 1945, MacArthur allowed the emperor to remain in place as spiritual head of Japan, the very condition that coerced the Japanese leadership to refuse to accept the earlier, humiliating, “unconditional surrender” terms.
So the two essential questions that need answering to comprehend what was going on behind the scenes are these:  1) Why did the US refuse to accept Japan's only demand concerning their surrender (the retention of the emperor) and 2) why were the atomic bombs used when victory in the Pacific was already a certainty?
Shortly after WWII, military analyst Hanson Baldwin wrote: "The Japanese, in a military sense, were in a hopeless strategic situation by the time the Potsdam Declaration (insisting on Japan’s unconditional surrender) was made on July 26, 1945."
Admiral William Leahy, top military aide to President Truman, said in his war memoirs, I Was There: "It is my opinion that the use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender because of the effective sea blockade and the successful bombing with conventional weapons. My own feeling is that in being the first to use it, we had adopted an ethical standard common to the barbarians of the Dark Ages."
And General Dwight D. Eisenhower, in a personal visit to President Truman a couple of weeks before the bombings, urged him not to use the atomic bombs. Eisenhower said: "It wasn’t necessary to hit them with that awful thing . . . to use the atomic bomb, to kill and terrorize civilians, without even attempting [negotiations], was a double crime."
The Factors Leading up to the Decision to use the Most Horrendous Weapons of Mass Destruction
There are a number of factors that contributed to the Truman administration’s decision to use nuclear weapons.
1) Investment. The US had made a huge investment in time, mind and money (a massive 2 billion in 1940 dollars) to produce three bombs, and there was no inclination - and no guts - to stop the momentum.
2) Revenge. The US military and political leadership – as did many ordinary Americans - had a tremendous appetite for revenge because of the Pearl Harbor “surprise” attack. Mercy wasn't in the mindset of the US military, the war-weary populace  and even of average American Christian churches and the missions against Hiroshima and Nagasaki were accepted , with no questions asked, by most of those folks who only knew the sanitized, national security state version of events.
3) A “use it or lose it” mentality and scientific curiosity. The fissionable material in Hiroshima's bomb was uranium. The Trinity test bomb (exploded on July 16, 1945) and the Nagasaki bomb were plutonium bombs. Scientific curiosity were significant factor that pushed the project to its deadly completion. The Manhattan Project scientists (and the US Army director of the project, General Leslie Groves) were curious about “what would happen if Hiroshima was leveled by a single uranium bomb?” “What would happen to a major city if a plutonium bomb was dropped on it?” None but the most conscientious Manhattan scientists considered not using the bombs – even against civilian targets.
4) “Orders are orders”. Actually, the military decision to use both bombs had been made well in advance of August 1945. Accepting the surrender of Japan prior to the use of the bombs was not an option if the experiment was to go ahead. It should be obvious to everybody that the three-day interval between the two bombs was unconscionably short if the first uranium bomb was actually designed to force immediate surrender. Japan’s communications and transportation capabilities were in shambles, and no one, neither the US military nor the Japanese high command, fully understood what had happened at Hiroshima. (It is a fascinating fact that the Manhattan Project had been so top secret that even Douglas MacArthur, commanding general of the entire Pacific theatre, had been kept out of the loop until five days before Hiroshima.)
5) The Russians. Stalin’s army had proclaimed their intent to enter the war with Japan 90 days after V-E Day (Victory in Europe Day, May 8, 1945), which would have two days after Hiroshima was bombed. Indeed, Russia did declare war on Japan on August 8 and was advancing eastward across Manchuria when Nagasaki City was incinerated.
Certainly Russia was still feeling the sting of humiliation and the loss of territory back in 1905  when they were defeated by upstart Japan in the Russo-Japanese War. Elephants and ego-bloated nations have long memories, especially when they lose an argument, lose a fight or are embarrassed in public.
But the US also didn't want Japan surrendering to Russia and sharing the spoils of war. Russia was soon to be one of only two world superpowers - and a future enemy of the United States. So the first "messages" of the Cold War were sent by the US to the USSR on August 6 and 9, 1945.
Russia indeed received far less of the spoils of war than they had anticipated, and the two superpowers were instantly mired in the multi-trillion dollar stalemated empire-building, proxy wars, nuclear arms race and the possibility of total extinction of the human race. What also happened was the inevitable moral bankruptcies of both paranoid nations who were in a cold war with each other, fueled by war-profiteering corporations that promoted the military madness and borrow and spend debt economies..
The Reality for the Innocent Casualties of War
An estimated 80,000 innocent civilians, plus 20,000 weaponless young Japanese conscripts died instantly in the Hiroshima bombing. Hundreds of thousands suffered slow deaths from agonizing burns, radiation sickness, leukemias, anemias and untreatable infections. The Japanese survivor's progeny, as is true also of the progeny of American soldiers who were exposed to the US’s depleted uranium weapons in the two Gulf Wars, were also afflicted with horrible radiation-induced illnesses, congenital anomalies, cancers and premature deaths, still going on to this very hour.
Another shameful reality that has been covered up is the fact that 12 American Navy pilots, their existence well known to the US command prior to the bombing, were instantly incinerated in the Hiroshima jail on that fateful day
Military Myths That our Teachers Taught us
So the official War Department-approved, highly censored version of the end of the war in the Pacific was added to an ever-lengthening list of myths that we Americans have been continuously fed by our corporate, military, political and media opinion leaders. In the process, the gruesomeness and cruelty of war has been propagandized into its glorification.
Among the other censored out realities include what really happened in the US military bloody coup plots, invasions and occupations of the countries of North Korea, Iran, Viet Nam, Laos, Cambodia, Lebanon, Granada, Panama, the Philippines, Chile, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Honduras, Haiti, Colombia, Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc, etc. This list doesn’t cover the uncountable secret Pentagon/CIA covert operations and assassination plots in the rest of the world, where as many as150 “sovereign” nations host American military bases (permission lavishly paid for by bribery or threats of economic or military sanctions).
But somehow most of us still hang on to our shaky "my country right or wrong" patriotism, desperately wanting to believe the cunningly-orchestrated myths that say that the war-profiteering corporate elite (and the politicians, military leaders and media talking heads who are in their employ) only work for peace, justice, equality, liberty and “making the world safe” for predatory capitalism.
While it is true that the US military has faced down the occasional despot, with necessary sacrifice from dead and mortally-wounded (in body, mind and spirit) American soldiers and veterans, more often than not the rationalizations for going to war are the same as those of the "godless communists", the anti-American “insurgents” and “freedom fighters” who just want us Yankees to go home where we belong.
August 6 and 9, 1945 are just two more examples of the brain-washing that goes on in all "total war” political agendas, which are always accompanied by the inevitable human slaughter that is euphemistically labeled "collateral damage" or "friendly fire".
What Happened to the Humanitarian, Peace-loving America That We Used to Know and Love?
It might already be too late to rescue and resuscitate the humanitarian, peacemaking America that we used to know and love. It might be too late to effectively confront the corporate hijacking of liberal democracy in America. It might be too late to successfully bring down the arrogant and greedy ruling elites who are selfishly dragging our world down the road to destruction. The rolling coup d’etat of what I call Friendly American Fascism may have already accomplished its goals.
But there may still be some hope. Rather than being silent about the wars that the war-mongers are provoking all over the planet (with the very willing assistance of the Pentagon, the weapons industries and their lapdogs in Congress), people of conscience need to start learning the whole truth of history, despite the psychological discomfort we may feel (cognitive dissonance) when the truth can’t be ignored any more. We need to start owning up to America’s uncountable war crimes that have been orchestrated in our names. And then we need to dissent, going to the streets, publicly protesting and courageously refusing to cooperate with those who are transforming America into a criminal rogue nation that will eventually be targeted for downfall by its billions of angry, fed-up, suffering victims that live both inside and outside of our borders, similar to what happened to the victims of Nazi Germany and Fascist Japan in World War II.
Doing what is right for the whole of humanity for a change, rather than just doing what is profitable or advantageous for our over-privileged, over-consumptive, toxic and unsustainable American way of life, would be real honor, real patriotism and an essential start toward real peace.
Look for Hiroshima and Nagasaki commemoration events in your home area this coming week - or host one yourself. (For Duluth area residents, check out the advertisements on the Hiroshima/Nagasaki events that will be published in the Reader.) Consider spending some educational time pondering American militarism, its nuclear arsenal and consider committing to efforts such as theMinnesota Arms Spending Alternatives Project ( And consider pondering the ethics of aggressive war by watching some of the powerful YouTube videos about the bombings, starting at
Dr Kohls is a retired family physician from Duluth, Minnesota who practiced holistic (non-drug) mental health care for the last decade of his career. He often dealt with the horrific psychological consequences of veterans (and civilians) who had suffered psychological, neurological and/or spiritual trauma. He continues to be involved in peace, nonviolence and justice issues and often writes about mental ill health, toxic food issues, corporate pollution, the corporate-controlled media, corporate-controlled politics, crony capitalism, militarism, racism, fascism, imperialism, totalitarianism, economic oppression, anti-environmentalism and other violent, unsustainable, anti-democratic movements.