Reflecting on Godzilla and the Bomb

So wiping out two cities and ending the war quickly (200,000 dead) was a worse option to mass starvation, continued firebombing, and the destruction of an invading force which would have left millions of dead. Mostly civilians.

Nope. Don’t buy that for a second. People who make the arguments against the dropping of the A-bombs never take into account the toll the preparation for invasion had already taken on the Japanese population. Famine had already set in. Ending the war quickly meant saving Japanese lives as well.


On my short list of “Things I’ve Stopped Arguing About On the Internet”, number one is “The Atomic Bombing of Japan”, but I really would strongly recommend the following book, which gives a much more robust picture about the calculus both within Washington and within Japan about the risk of, and later actual, Soviet entry into the war against Japan. Written by a fellow who is fluent in Japanese and Russian as well as English, I think it’s worth the time for anyone who wants to seriously understand the subject. Hasegawa was one of the first English-language historians to dig into the Soviet archives on the subject.


Once the first bomb had been dropped, there should have been an adequate interval to arrange surrender before the second. But there were political reasons, and the technical reason that the first bomb was a crude uranium gun, but the second one was the plutonium bomb that the US intended to mass produce. Therefore, they wanted to test it on civilians before the war was over.

Hiroshima was understandable; but I think Nagasaki was a war crime that the US has never faced up to.

I remember the gist of the remark of von Thoma, when he decided that Hitler was crazy and the war was lost, and went off to surrender to the British; that once a war is lost, continuing it is not worth the life of a single civilian.


I think you are making an arbitrary argument here. There was no conceivable adequate interval possible. Nor was the likelihood of surrender even as certain as you think even after Hiroshima.

The Japanese government, even from the beginning of the war was a chaotic mess of competing and intertwined interests. Even the decision to start the war was caused by a confusing morass of error and lack of understanding of the situation on the ground. It took both A-bombs for the Emperor to step up after nearly 20 years of avoidance and act like a leader and order the surrender. A man so isolated from his own people that he used a dialect that was far removed from the majority of the population.

“that once a war is lost, continuing it is not worth the life of a single civilian.”

Even after both bombs were dropped there were members of the Japanese military who not only wanted to fight on, they were willing to abduct the Emperor to do it. There were over a million Japanese soldiers in China ready to take up the defense of their country. If not for fortuitous air raid knocking out power in Tokyo, there was a chance they would have succeeded in frustrating the surrender. There was a book/movie (“Japan’s Longest Day”), and History Channel doc on the subject (“The Last Mission”).

Just to add insult to injury to the critics of the A-bombings, keeping the war going longer would have resulted in the Soviet invasion of Northern Japan. Japan could have ended up divided like Korea. Hokkaido could have been an island version of the Hermit Kingdom.


Since “The Day After” was mentioned, it’s probably worth adding “Threads” from 1984.


That man was an outlier in the fascist era. Millions died in Europe after it was obvious the Nazis would lose. As for the racism of dropping the bomb, we’d been dropping conventional bombs on European cities for 3 years at that point with tremendous civilian casualties, as well as conventional bombing Japanese cities once we had bases within range for the B-29s. It was total war. The bloody mindset of that war is hard for us to get around so many years later, but in many way the difference between one bomb dropped by one plane and tens of thousands dropped by hundreds of planes was not very distinct.


Yes! … and generationally-specific.

I do not relish the idea of arguing that my wife’s parents would have been better off dying of starvation before age 12 or their cousins living under a Communist dictatorship in Hokkaido. Both of which were highly likely had the war not ended when it did.

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Those who wish to purchase the recent Japanese reboot “Shin Godzilla” should look online for the Hong Kong Blu-Ray. It is Region A (same as the US) and has English subtitles. The Japanese Blu-Ray and DVD of the film do not have English subtitles.I found one on eBay earlier today.

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I’m with you on the decision here. I think it was both right but also bureaucratically inevitable.

But as a subject I know pretty damned well, having read most of the big books about it, and knowing (and admiring) a couple of late family friends who worked on the Manhattan Project, I find arguing through the filter of the internet maddening. In person, I’ll never tire of discussing it.


Nah. I think given the cultural, historical and social imagery Godzilla is traditionally associated with, all of these adjunct side-topics are pretty on-point here.



I’ve never been banned before…exploited, but not banned.

It wasn’t racism. The bomb wasn’t ready in time to blast the Nazis.

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Most of the Germans who died when we bombed Dresden weren’t war criminals either. Neither were the Chinese in Nanking or the Jews in Prague. The world was full of vicious racism then. In fact, it was the theories of Japanese, German and Italian racial superiority that fueled the rhetoric and atrocities of the war. I’m old fashioned. Unlike modern people, I still think that murdering millions of people, systematically starving whole populations, enslaving civilians and performing medical experiments on humans are much greater crimes than calling people racist names and fighting back to end the atrocities.

One of the weird things about World War II was that it was a total war and the aggressors, Germany, Italy and Japan, refused to negotiate a surrender even as their empires were crumbling. In previous wars, including World War I, the war was ended through diplomatic channels. Attempts to open diplomatic channels were rebuffed during World War II. That meant the Allies had to fight their way to Berlin and they were going to have to fight their way to Tokyo. It wasn’t just about race. It was about all the people being killed, starved and tortured. The Germans had to be stopped. The Japanese had to be stopped.

In the light of the horrific death counts of the war, the atomic bomb was a minor, though decisive weapon. Millions died on the Eastern front in the USSR. A bombing raid on Tokyo a few weeks before the atomic bombs were dropped killed twice as many people as both atomic bombs combined. They were a terrifying weapon, but they didn’t kill anyone any deader than high explosives, a rifle bullet or a fire storm.


Godzilla’s roar was created by a rosin string plucked on a contrabass looped backwards!


I’m in the same place. My father would have been in the invasion force, so a good chance I wouldn’t be here.

My father-in-law was eating grass outside firebombed Nagoya in 1945, on the edge of starvation.

Still, there’s no point in arguing one side or the other on this. I find the whole thing resembles that scene in “Good Will Hunting” where Matt Damon flattens the pony-tail guy’s entire college course history by the phases and counter-phases of US history. When discussing the atomic bombings, people go through the ‘bombs were revenge, they started it’ phase to the ‘political show the ruskies’ phase to the ‘saved lives on both sides’ phase to the ‘Truman did/didn’t really know what it meant’ phase to the ‘Emperor was going to give up that week anyway there was no need’ phase to the ‘bombs were revenge’ phase…

I’ve read and written my way through most of those. In the end, it was a horrible tragedy. If you don’t cry when you see the tattered and burnt school uniforms in the Hiroshima museum, you’re probably not human.


Interestingly enough, that viewpoint seems to have been lost on many Japanese moviegoers. Seems that what you say there was common with American viewers who have some context under their belts.

The original still resonates in some ends of culture here:

Context is two of Japan’s best ever dub producers did this track back in the 90s. Not sure if it was ever released in the US.

I do so wish someone would not only inform our neighbors but also the Western press, Wikipedia and some internet posters.

I know some people who lived through that as children.

Also agreed about Nagoya castle. One of my favorite things in the whole country.

You are correct. The post war time here saw so many shifts in society, trying to figure out what was the right way for the nation & culture to move forward and how to understand the world outside Japan at the same time.

Have you read Embracing Defeat?

What was your first clue?

Old man I used to know at this one sento I used to go to told me about how he and his brother would catch frogs so the family could eat

I’d have finished that sentence with “haven’t usually read any first hand material on the subject” but I like your concise answer better.

They still have four of Japan’s islands up there even today.

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When it said nothing about Truman outgrowing his racist beliefs. I’m a Trumanophile, so yeah.

And you needn’t be patronizing about it. Maybe my dad didn’t talk about his personal experiences in the Pacific, but he talked about the rest of it, thus giving me the impetus to read up on it myself.


Didn’t mean to sound patronizing, sorry if it came off that way!

My grandfather never talked about his experiences but from a young age I got into reading history. The Pacific war has been subject to so much revisionism by so many who seem to be perfectly willing to ignore all the primary material out there, it gets frustrating. Maybe all the more so since I’ve been fortunate to meet some people who lived through the after effects here in Japan.

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Have you ever read "The ‘Good War’ " by Studs Terkel?

And I apologize for perceiving your comment as being patronizing. That particular phrase has been twisted into such.