Gallery of art and thoughts

The cartoons and contemplations of a twentysomething copy editor.

Monday, April 25, 2005

How I Learned to Start Worrying and Loathe the Bomb

This afternoon, I read a chilling article from the German website "Sign and Sight." Author Jorg Friedrich explains that the reasons why the Allies bombed German cities such as Hamburg and Dresden, and why the United States used Fat Man and Little Boy to bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki, was to intimidate Josef Stalin and the Soviet Union.

I first learned of the Dresden bombing from reading Vonnegut's masterpiece "Slaughterhouse-Five" in junior year of college. Bill O'Neill's masterly "A Democracy at War," which I also began that year (but did not finish until about two years later), provided factual information about the bombings and Germany and Japan, making that case that the use of plutonium and uranium bombs against Japan was justified.

The methodical nature of the Allied preparation for the firebombings and atomic bombings is stunning: within the US, fake German and Japanese cities were set up, complete with toys and books that might be found in such cities. The only difference, of course, was that there were no people, and an American serviceman recalled that it was helpful to block out the fact that there would be people living in the cities that the Allies would bomb.

Friedrich describes in awful detail what the bombings felt like: hurricanes of fire in Germany, burning air and water in Japan. And it seems that all of it achieved relatively little in terms of staving off the Communist specter: China and North Korea were -- and are still -- lost. The only result the US could point to is, as Friedrich writes, "if everyone can do it, it is highly unlikely that nobody will." (Does he mean "anybody" instead of "nobody," I wonder -- Mutually Assured Destruction?)

In any event, this was a disturbing article to read and shows that the Allies defeated two evil powers in World War II -- Germany and Japan -- but saw another malignant nation, Stalin's USSR, replace them. And the science of killing people had been upgraded dramatically. Friedrich's writing style is mesmerizing and his knowledge profound. The conclusions he reaches are profoundly depressing.


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