1 Minute Of Brilliance On What It Really Meant To Drop The Bombs On Hiroshima And Nagasaki

One of the biggest reasons given for the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II was that it would end the war more quickly and save lives. Watch historian Howard Zinn tackle that in one minute.

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Interviewee: And, I didn't think about the human consequences about the bombing, and that made me rethink my own missions and realize that I had never understood the human consequences of the bombing missions that I was flying.

Interviewer: Yeah.

Interviewee: I didn't realize that I was bombing really indiscriminately. And all this talk about, which they still, you know, talk about. You know, precision bombing, accurate bombing, we only bomb military targets was all nonsense.

Interviewer: Yeah, yeah.

Interviewee: It was nonsense then and it's nonsense now.

Interviewer: They started saying that in those days because of what was then a new device, the Norton bombsite.

Interviewee: That's right.

Interviewer: Actually, we were engaging, as were the British, in area bombing to a large extent. You know, when you talk about Hiroshima, there are people who can say, it's not my purpose to get into that discussion here. But merely to point out that there are people who say that the atomic bombs may have saved, you know, millions of lives on both sides.

Interviewee: Yeah.

Interviewer: But, be that as it may, you participated in a bombing at Royan. Afterwards, you could find no legitimate excuse for that bombing at all, and it took hundreds, as I understand it, of allied, French lives on the ground.

Interviewee: Yes. I don't want to bypass Hiroshima.

Interviewer: Okay, okay.

Interviewee: Because it is still one of the great myths in American culture, that we saved lives by bombing Hiroshima and Nagasaki. And we did not, and I've done a lot of research on that and the most elaborate research job on that, done by Gar Alperovitz and the crew of scholars makes it clear. We did not save lives. Japanese were about to surrender. We killed several hundred thousand people unnecessarily, and I want to say something else about that, which goes not only to Hiroshima, but to bombing in general, I think.

And, I would ask people who say we had to do it in order to save lives, I would say well, if it was in August 1945 and you knew that we could end the war with Japan more quickly because that's what it was about, ending it more quickly. Not ending it because we knew it would end, the Japanese were on their way to defeat, but ending it more quickly by dropping a bomb, would you be willing to kill a hundred thousand American children to end the war more quickly?

Well, the answer to that is obvious. Nobody would say yes. But, you're willing to kill a hundred thousand Japanese children in order to end the war more quickly? What does that mean? What does that say about the way we think about other people? What does that say about war? What does that say about our willingness to kill other people because their lives are not as important as ours? Okay. I know you didn't want to Hiroshima . . .

Interviewer: No, no, that's all right. That's all right because . . .

Interviewee: But, I couldn't let that go because it's such an important myth in American culture.

This excerpt is brought to you by the Massachusetts School of Law, the leader of reform and legal education, and the leader in multimedia education for the public. To view the full interview and for a full listing of MSL's programs, log onto MSLaw.ubv.

There may be small errors in this transcript.

This clip is by the Massachusetts School of Law. It features Howard Zinn, who is somebody you really oughta know more about. Your call, though. Thumbnail image via Thinkstock.


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