March 16, 2013

1945 U.S. to Imperial Japan: Please Note

"Front side of OWI notice #2106, dubbed the “LeMay bombing leaflet,” which was delivered to Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and 33 other Japanese cities on 1 August 1945. The Japanese text on the reverse side of the leaflet carried the following warning: “Read this carefully as it may save your life or the life of a relative or friend. In the next few days, some or all of the cities named on the reverse side will be destroyed by American bombs. These cities contain military installations and workshops or factories which produce military goods. We are determined to destroy all of the tools of the military clique which they are using to prolong this useless war. But, unfortunately, bombs have no eyes. So, in accordance with America's humanitarian policies, the American Air Force, which does not wish to injure innocent people, now gives you warning to evacuate the cities named and save your lives. America is not fighting the Japanese people but is fighting the military clique which has enslaved the Japanese people. The peace which America will bring will free the people from the oppression of the military clique and mean the emergence of a new and better Japan. You can restore peace by demanding new and good leaders who will end the war. We cannot promise that only these cities will be among those attacked but some or all of them will be, so heed this warning and evacuate these cities immediately.”
Between 220,000 and 500,000 Japanese civilians were killed between March 1945 and the end of the war with conventional bombs; one raid killed over 100,000 people in Tokyo alone. This idea came from Gen. Curtis LeMay, who had already turned the USAAF strategic bombing campaign from military to civilian targets in Europe, before, later of course, literally screaming at Kennedy to launch nuclear strikes against the USSR during the Cuban Missile crisis as B-47s sat running on our airfields.  Then he promised to bomb Vietnam back to the Stone Age, and oops, Cambodia too.  Finally he ran for Vice-President with George Wallace. Curtis LeMay, just that kind of guy.


Blogger The Other Front said...

That is a tough read.

"We're going to kill you. You can't do anything. Next time try to have your country not be taken over by maniacs."

Also needs to be read in the context of expected U.S. casualties in an invasion. LeMay was told 500,000 when he took over, and that was a low estimate.

March 16, 2013 at 12:25 PM  
Blogger First Sea Lord said...

No dispute. U.S. casualty estimates were usually cited higher. To say nothing of the civilian losses in ground fighting.

I'd had a longer discourse on the accounting version of morality which becomes inevitable in the case of war. By this standard, we weren't even close to being the bad guys- our effort was about as close to heroic as any war gets. Particularly, we had no ambitions toward recreational genocide. This, I suppose is the heart of all matters in WWII.

But war is a thing in which metal is repeatedly inserted at high velocity into soft human bodies. Our strategic bombing campaign killed somewhere around a million people. Yet it may have saved untold millions of lives, depending on what you think of its military effectiveness in stopping genocidal governments.

And war puts you in the absurd position of writing such a falsely cool sentence, balancing unimaginable horrors like they were kids on a teeter-totter.

But LeMay is a particular case; he was the man who turned toward the destruction of cities as strategic policy (as well as former Alaskan Jimmy Doolittle-who in the 8th Air Force turned the bombers into bait, by targeting cities, in order to destroy the Luftwaffe.)

There is something deeply awful in LeMay's thinking, a truly brutal detachment from humanity; like McNamara in Vietnam, playing the numbers with life and death until numbers were only numbers. It wasn't a coincidence that is was LeMay, who acknowledged once that had we lost he would have been prosecuted as a war criminal, who came a shaved millimeter from incinerating the Earth.

March 17, 2013 at 10:30 AM  

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