Saturday, August 6, 2011

Atom Bombs Save Lives! (And, Then Again, They Don't...)

Sixty-six years ago today, the United States dropped the first of only two atomic weapons ever used "in anger," i.e. for real, in battle, as weapons.

80,000 people died instantly in Hiroshima, with another 60,000 to die days, weeks, months, and even years later from the effects of the radiation burns they suffered that day. In total, it is estimated that 140,000 to 160,000 people died as a direct result of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

Another 90,000 would die 3 days later, when the second atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki.

The United States War Department estimated that an invasion of the Japanese home islands would result in 500,000 to 1,000,000 American casualties, and at least twice that many Japanese casualties. Ending the war quickly saved 1.5 to 3 million lives, so, in that sense, the atom bombs saved many more lives than they ended.

But, then again, almost everybody who would have died in the invasion of Japan is now dead. Within the next 10 or so years, the entire WWII generation will have passed away. To paraphrase C. S. Lewis, wars do not increase death, since 100% of us will die. All war does is concentrate death into a smaller space and time. But children were born who would not have been, if their parents had died in that invasion, so their lives, too, were, in a sense, spared by the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

So, in the light of history and the harsh math that a military planner must use, the atomic bombing of Japan saved a great many lives. But, also, in the harsh reality that, in a post-Genesis-3 world, everyone is under a sentence of death, the end of another war did nothing to stop the death toll that sin exacts.

The fact that all are sinners and that the just punishment for sin is death is the Bad News that makes the Good News so very, very good!

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Bennett Willis said...

You said well what I have always thought about the A-bombs and WWII. Along with this, the explanation of the seond bomb was that the US wanted to give the impression that there would be one a week of these until the war was over--and while this was not possible immediately, this was the "long term" plan.

Of course, it was also a test of both bomb designs. There are always a multitude of reasons for doing anything. We almost always err in attributing motivation to a single cause.

markshriv said...
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markshriv said...
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Robert Warren said...

Mr. Squirrel:

I have often thought about what would have happened to my dad, who was in the Army in the Philippines at the time, in the case of a land invasion of Japan...a very high probability of death. Instead, he raised a family of 3 children and lived until 2006, just shy of his 82nd birthday.