The Sun Wasn’t All That Was Burning in the Sky.

(Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Sun Is Burning,” song, protests the use of Nuclear Weapons, and the use of the first two Atomic Bombs in world history by the US upon hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians. Copyright by Simon & Garfunkel, 1964)

Try mightily not to get lost in the hollow Hollywood marketing blitzkrieg surrounding the impressive debut of the movie “Oppenheimer,” and the callous and brainless branding it as “Barbieheimer,” with the make-believe, pop-culture phenomenon of “The Barbie Movie.“

“Oppenheimer,” is a real-life story of human horror,  not a concocted piece of a double-barreled magical cure for a movie industry which eats its artists, and cloaks the real reasons behind how and why America dropped the world’s first nuclear weapon on innocent civilians behind a compelling and complicated main character.  Don’t let Hollywood hucksters vaporize US history into thin air the way hundreds of thousands of Japanese citizens were slaughtered  by our own country at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, 78 years ago this month.

Yes, the facts behind “Oppenheimer” really happened, as did so many more horrific events surrounding it.  We have to keep reminding young moviegoers, blinded by the bright Barbie flashes of pink lining up right next to the theatres in which “Oppenheimer” is screening, that one of these movies is far too real, not fiction.  Yes, our country really did commit two back-to-back massive War Crimes against civilian populations, killing, burning and radiating more than 200,000 humans.  And no, committing such War Crimes was not necessary to win World War II. 

Hitler was already dead for 3 months, when the first bomb was dropped, the Nazis had surrendered, and Victory in Europe was already celebrated by the Allied Forces on May 8, 1945.   The original justification for the US Manhattan Project headed by Oppenheimer—to beat the Nazis to developing an Atomic Bomb so they couldn’t use it against the world—no longer existed.  And, the Japanese—with nowhere near the scientific sophistication of the Germans or the US, and their armies depleted,  were about to surrender.

But, don’t take my word for it, just like you shouldn’t think “Oppenheimer” film-maker Christopher Nolan is the final word, or that the central angst of the story occurred inside the head of the Atomic bombs’ creator, or can be found in the unjust attacks upon J. Robert Oppenheimer’s patriotism.  There are no heroes here.

Instead, listen to the warnings of General Dwight D. Eisenhower, then the Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force in Europe, who had just defeated the Nazis and liberated thousands of Jews from several Nazi concentration camps.  Before the decision to use the bombs in World War II was made, in the summer of 1945, Eisenhower—just off the battlefield—expressed his strong reservations to President Harry Truman’s Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson, who was leading the charge to use the weapons because we had them.  General Eisenhower, the most revered military leader in the United States at the time, made his position clear to Stimson:

“  I told him I was against it (using the bomb) on two counts.  First, the Japanese were ready to surrender and it wasn’t necessary to hit them with that awful thing.  Second, I hated to see our country be the first to use such a weapon…”

However, what happened after the end of War World II in Europe and the dropping of the first Atomic bomb on Hiroshima just a few months later, was a carefully calculated plan of American military intimidation, aimed more at impressing Soviet leader Josef Stalin who, with Truman and Winston Churchill, were negotiating over the future of Post-War Europe at the Potsdam Conference in a Soviet-occupied part of Germany,  according to historian Gar Alperovitz, in his masterful book of that period, Atomic Diplomacy:  Hiroshima & Potsdam—the Use of the Atomic Bomb and the American Confrontation with Soviet Power (Vintage Books, 1965, New York, N.Y.)

 A growing chorus of battle-hardened military leaders like Eisenhower, strongly opposed sacrificing the lives of hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians as human pawns in an international power struggle between the US and Russia.  Admiral William D. Leahy, the most senior Naval Officer on duty during WW II,  called the Atomic Bomb “barbarous,” and of “no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender.”

Perhaps the most damning assessment of the Truman/Stimson decision to drop the unnecessary and apocalyptic weapons of mass destruction upon the people of Hiroshima on August 6, and on Nagasaki three days later, came from the United States Strategic Bombing Survey:

“ Certainly prior to 31 December 1945 and in all probability prior to 1 November 1945, Japan would have surrendered even if the atomic bombs had not been dropped, even if Russia had not entered the War, and even if no invasion had been planned.”

And, even the Supreme Allied Commander of the Allied Forces in the Pacific, General Douglas MacArthur stated numerous times before his death, that he believed the Atomic Bomb was completely unnecessary from a military point of view.  In fact, as Oppenheimer himself later said, the original reason for developing the Bomb to beat the Nazis, morphed into something else:

I don’t think there was a time where we worked harder at the speed up (of the development of the bomb) than in the period after the German surrender.”

Then, why did we then become the first and only nation in world history to drop, not one, but two nuclear weapons on civilian populations, despite the fears of some scientists, that even a test of the Bomb might set fire to the atmosphere and consume the globe in flames?  Why did we do it, if the Atomic Bombs were no longer necessary to defeat the Germans or the Japanese and end World War II?

Some answers, like the outcomes of many criminal trials, reveal themselves in details, dates and bold face: 

  • FDR died of a heart attack on April 12, 1945, at the beginning of his fourth term of office, elevating Harry Truman—inexperienced in foreign policy and who never previously met either Winston Churchill or Josef Stalin —to the Presidency;
  • Hitler killed himself a few weeks later on April 30, 1945, effectively ending the War in Europe;
  • One week later, on May 8, 1945, Germany surrendered and the Allied Forces declared Victory in Europe;
  • On July 15, 1945, President Truman arrives on a Sunday afternoon for the crucial Potsdam Conference, scheduled to begin on July 17th.
  • On July 16, 1945, the US Manhattan Project’s “Trinity Test” of the Atomic Bomb—the first Nuclear Test in world history—was carried out in Alamogordo, New Mexico, 210 miles south of Los Alamos.
  • The following day, on July 17, 1945, the Potsdam Conference– to negotiate the terms for the end of World War II– began in a Soviet occupied part of Germany, just outside of Berlin.   In attendance were Winston Churchill, President Truman, and Soviet Leader Josef Stalin.  It was the first time Truman met either Churchill or Stalin.
  • July 24, 1945, Truman tells Stalin at Potsdam that the United States had successfully detonated the world’s first Atomic bomb the previous week;
  • July 25, 1945, the formal order to use the Atomic Bomb as a weapon of war against Japan was given by Secretary of War Stimson, with President Truman’s approval.
  • The Potsdam Conference concluded on August 2, 1945. The Soviet Union had not yet declared war on Japan, an important fact to preclude Russia’s designs for expansion in the Far East;
  • August 6, 1945, the first American Atomic Bomb is dropped on Hiroshima killing 100,000 to 150,000 people;
  • August 8, 1945, the Soviet Union declares war on Japan, at 11 pm that evening, the night before the second US Atomic Bomb is dropped on Nagasaki, and Russian forces invade mineral rich Manchuria, then under Japanese control;
  • August 9, 1945, the second American Atomic Bomb—six times the size and strength of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima—is dropped on Nagasaki, killing 80,000-100,000 people.
  • August 14, 1945, Japan surrenders, ending World War II.

The evidence of the world’s first Nuclear weapons being used as tools to intimidate Stalin and Russia—more than as weapons to defeat Japan—is followed to its logical conclusion by Alperovitz in Atomic Diplomacy:  Hiroshima and Potsdam:

“It might explain why none of the highest civilian officials seriously questioned the use of the bomb as Eisenhower did; for having reversed the basic direction of diplomatic strategy because of the Atomic Bomb, it would have been very difficult for anyone subsequently to challenge an idea which had come to dominate all calculations of high policy…Were Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombed primarily to impress the world (specifically Stalin) with the need to accept America’s plan for a stable and lasting peace?”

Truman’s hand-picked Secretary of State James F. Byrnes of South Carolina, meeting with Oppenheimer and the Manhattan Project scientists in May, 1945, told them that it was necessary for the Bomb to be “successful”  because “our possessing and demonstrating the bomb would make Russia more manageable in Europe.”

Testifying before Congress some years later, J. Robert Oppenheimer, admitted that the obsession of post-War stability was the “problem” of Russia:

Much of the discussion revolved around the question raised by Secretary Stimson as to whether there was any hope at all of using this development (of the bomb) to get less barbarous relations with the Russians.”

A few hundred deaths of Americans in proximity to the New Mexico bomb-test site, and the incineration of a few hundred thousand  Japanese children, women and men, were, by those  cold calculations, simply the inhumane, collateral damage of war, and a world gone completely mad.

Put that in your “Barbieheimer,” press kit and try to make it look courageous or cuddly.

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