American Conservatives Are the Forgotten Critics of the Atomic Bombing of Japan
The large civilan deaths must surely concern any conservative -- particularly since Japan was already on its knees at that point. The man who ordered the bombing was a Democrat -- Truman
“The use of the atomic bomb, with its indiscriminate killing of women and children, revolts my soul,” he wrote. “The only difference between this and the use of gas (which President Franklin D. Roosevelt had barred as a first-use weapon in World War II) is the fear of retaliation.”
Those harsh words, written three days after the Hiroshima bombing in August, 1945, were not by a man of the American left, but rather by a very prominent conservative—former President Herbert Hoover, a foe of the New Deal and Fair Deal.
In 1959, Medford Evans, a conservative writing in William Buckley’s strongly nationalistic, energetically right-wing magazine, National Review, stated: “The indefensibility of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima is becoming a part of the national conservative creed.” Just the year before, the National Review had featured an angry, anti-atomic bomb article, “Hiroshima: Assault on a Beaten Foe.” Like Hoover, that 1958 essay had decried the atomic bombing as wanton murder. National Review’s editors, impressed by that article, had offered special reprints.
Those two sets of events—Hoover in 1945 and National Review in 1968-69—were not anomalies in early post-Hiroshima U.S. conservatism. In fact, many noted American conservatives—journalists, former diplomats and retired and occasionally on-duty military officers, and some right-wing historians and political scientists—criticized the atomic bombing. They frequently contended it was unnecessary, and often maintained it was immoral and that softer surrender terms could have ended the war without such mass killing. They sometimes charged Truman and the atomic bombing with “criminality” and “slaughter.”
Yet today, this history of early anti-A-bomb dissent by conservatives is largely unknown. In about the past 20 years, various American conservatives have even assailed A-bomb dissent as typically leftist and anti-American, and as having begun in the tumultuous 1960s. Such a view of postwar American history is remarkably incorrect.
In mid-August, 1945, in the conservative United States News (now U.S. News & World Report), with a circulation somewhat under 200,000, that magazine’s founder and longtime editor, David Lawrence, condemned the atomic bombing in a spirited editorial, “What Hath Man Wrought!” America, he asserted, should be “ashamed” of the atomic bombing. During the next 27 years, on some A-bomb anniversaries, Lawrence, a well known conservative who died in 1973, proudly republished his 1945 editorial.
Felix Morley, the former editor of the Washington Post and ex-president of Haverford College, felt similarly about the atomic bombing. A recognized conservative, he published in 1945 a strong anti-A-bomb editorial—“The Return to Nothingness”—in his small circulation, conservative newsletter, Human Events. He called Hiroshima and Pearl Harbor atrocities. The atomic bombing, he charged, was “an infamous act of atrocious revenge.”
The right-wing journalist Walter Trohan of the conservative Chicago Tribune periodically contended that the atomic bombing had been unnecessary and that an early Japanese surrender could have been otherwise achieved. Charging a coverup, he implied there had been a Roosevelt-Truman conspiracy to prolong the war. Beginning in August 1945, Trohan’s anti-A-bomb articles received front-page attention, and the Tribune in 1947 termed the bombings “criminality.”
In 1948, the rightward-leaning Time-Life-Fortune publisher Henry Luce told an international Protestant meeting that “unconditional surrender” had violated St. Thomas’ just-war doctrine, and that softer surrender terms in 1945 could have ended the war without the atomic bombing, which “so jarred the Christian conscience.”
Truman’s former 1945 Under Secretary of State Joseph Grew, who retired shortly after Japan’s surrender, and two of his former State Department associates, Japan experts Eugene Dooman and Joseph Ballantine, later angrily castigated the atomic bombing. Recognized as conservatives, they sharply criticized the defense of the bombings by President Truman and the retired Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson, who had presided over the wartime A-bomb project.
Grew, Dooman and Ballantine all believed that the atomic bombing had been unnecessary, that softer surrender terms (mostly allowing a constitutional monarchy) would have ended the war, and that Truman had gravely erred. Dooman often charged that the bombing had been immoral.
Similar harsh judgments came from William Castle, a close associate of Herbert Hoover who had served as Hoover’s Under Secretary of State when Stimson was secretary. Castle complained that Stimson’s postwar, widely publicized A-bomb defense “was consciously dishonest.” Japan, Castle believed, had been near surrender before the atomic bomb was used. He even suspected that Stimson and others had prolonged the war in order to use the A-bomb on Japan.
U.S. Military Leaders
Perhaps surprisingly, after V-J day, the right-wing Gen. Curtis LeMay, whose Air Force had pummeled Japan in the last months of the Asian war, periodically criticized the atomic bombing. In mid-September 1945, for example, he publicly declared that it had been unnecessary and that Japan would have speedily surrendered without it. The bomb, he asserted, “had nothing to do with the end of the war.”
Public criticism of the atomic bombing also appeared in the postwar memoirs by two retired military leaders on the moderate right—in 1949 by Gen. Henry H. Arnold, the wartime head of the Army Air Forces, and in 1952 by Admiral Ernest J. King, wartime chief of naval operations.
Shortly after the end of the war, Gen. Douglas MacArthur, a fervent anti-New Dealer, had publicly contended that the atomic bombing was unnecessary. In 1960, in discussing that bombing with ex-President Hoover, MacArthur condemned it as unnecessary “slaughter.”
MacArthur’s 1945 psychological-warfare chief, Gen. Bonner Fellers (later Colonel) after retiring from the Army, wrote a widely read article contending that Japan had been near surrender and that the nuclear bombing had been unnecessary. A proud conservative serving as public relations director for the Veterans of Foreign War (VFW), he published his article in the VFW’s monthly, “Foreign Service,” with a circulation of over a half-million. That month, the conservative-leaning Reader’s Digest, with a readership probably exceeding 10 million, reissued it in slightly compressed form.
The strongest postwar criticism of the atomic bombing by a prominent American ex-military leader probably came from Admiral William Leahy, a conservative who had also been a top military adviser to Presidents Roosevelt and Truman. In his 1950 memoir, the recently retired Leahy declared, “the use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of not material assistance in our war against Japan.” That nation, he contended, was defeated and ready to surrender before the atomic bombing. He likened the use of the bomb to the morality of Genghis Khan. The crusty admiral wrote about the 1945 bombing, “I was not taught to make war in that fashion.” The United States, he asserted, “had adopted an ethical standard common to the barbarians of the Dark Ages.”
Spirited contentions that the atomic bombing was unwise, unnecessary and immoral are not new, nor did they start in the 1960s. These charges appeared in much of the earlier post-Hiroshima criticism, which came substantially from conservative American publications and people. Such conservative support does not necessarily make those criticisms right or wrong, or good or bad history, but certainly an important part of an earlier postwar dissenting culture.
That is an important but mostly forgotten part of the past, which Americans today—whether young or old, Republicans or Democrats—usually do not know. Mistakenly, many believe that the loose conservative-liberal/radical divide of recent years on attitudes toward the 1945 atomic bombings and that prominent American conservatives in contrast overwhelmingly endorsed those atomic bombings. That history is far more complex, and is important to understand to gain perspective on American attitudes and values on war-fighting, forms of killing, and uses of nuclear weapons on enemies.
Effects of Lead Pollution in gasoline
The original proponent of the lead scare -- Needleman -- was an outright crook so I have always been skeptical in the matter. But there are nonetheless some real correlations between gasoline usage and crime. I have always dismissed such correlations with the basic truth that correlation does not prove causation. That point is however rather weak if one cannot propose a third factor which is the real cause. Steve Sailer below fills that gap with the proposal that increased automobile use was the causative factor in crime rise etc -- with gasoline usage merely a byproduct of that
Here’s a new lead pollution causes bad behavior study by Jessica Wolpaw Reyes using National Longitudinal Study of Youth 1979 and NLSY97 data. I reviewed her first attempt on this important topic back in 2007 in “Lead Poisoning and the Great 1960s Freakout.”
Now by comparing self reports and parental reports of behavior problems in the NLSY studies versus state results of average lead levels in blood, she finds more support for the lead > bad behavior, but less so for lead > violent crime nor for lead > black bad behavior. This is big news because it helps explain why Robert Heinlein’s 1939 prediction that the 1960s-1970s would be the Crazy Years turned out pretty accurate, but it shoots down explanations for the black-white crime gap based on putative lead pollution.
LEAD EXPOSURE AND BEHAVIOR: EFFECTS ON ANTISOCIAL AND RISKY BEHAVIOR AMONG CHILDREN AND ADOLESCENTS
Jessica Wolpaw Reyes
It is well known that exposure to lead has numerous adverse effects on behavior and development. Using data on two cohorts of children from the NLSY, this paper investigates the effect of early childhood lead exposure on behavior problems from childhood through early adulthood. I find large negative consequences of early childhood lead exposure, in the form of an unfolding series of adverse behavioral outcomes: behavior problems as a child, pregnancy and aggression as a teen, and criminal behavior as a young adult. At the levels of lead that were the norm in United States until the late 1980s, estimated elasticities of these behaviors with respect to lead range between 0.1 and 1.0.
“These are sizable elasticities, suggesting a substantial effect of early childhood blood lead on criminal behavior as a teenager. To assess effects on more specific crime categories, I construct two (non-comprehensive) sub-categories: violent crime, comprised of assault and robbery, and property crime, comprised of theft, burglary, destruction of property, and other property offenses.56 For violent crime, the results are insignificant. For property crime, the elasticity is significant in the NLSY79 sample but not in the NLSY97 sample. ….
Indeed, gasoline lead seemed to hurt middle class white children more than poor blacks:
“To investigate these factors in the NLSY data, I perform the above analyses separated by parental education (less than high school vs. high school vs. college or more), income (less than twice the poverty line vs. more than thrice the poverty line), and race/ethnicity (black or Hispanic vs. white). I find that, while all children are harmed by lead, advantaged groups are harmed more by lead.
In other words, this might explain why times at Ridgemont High were so fast in the 1970s compared to the 1930s — the movie was filmed in Sherman Oaks at the shopping mall right at the Ventura (101) and San Diego (405) freeways, the busiest freeway interchange in America for much of the era. But, this data can’t support the idea that blacks were hurt worse by gasoline lead pollution than whites were:
"The estimated effects of lead are larger and more consistently significant for children whose parents are more highly educated, whose families have higher income, or who are white. For the education and income breakdowns, this divergence between advantaged groups and disadvantaged groups is particularly apparent when looking at lead’s effects on child behavior problems."
In order to understand this result, recall that lead from gasoline was ubiquitous in the 1980s: it was in the very air children breathed, and everyone was affected regardless of income, education, or race. While children in more advantaged families might have been protected from many of the adverse environmental or social influences that children in disadvantaged families had to contend with, they were not protected from gasoline lead. Thus, whereas for the disadvantaged children lead may have been just one more adverse influence (on top of numerous others), for many of the advantaged children it was perhaps the only or the primary adverse influence. In a way, the advantaged children had more to lose. Consequently, gasoline lead may have been an equalizer of sorts.”
That’s what I wrote a awhile ago in Taki’s: lead might have been a major cause of what Heinlein predicted to be The Crazy Years, but it doesn’t explain why blacks have worse average civic order before during and after the Lead Years
Yet one of the more obvious differences between Chicago’s black and white areas is the heavier traffic in the expensive, safe zones. People who can afford cars tend to move away from black slums, leaving them bleak. In the Chicago area, race and class palpably determine the homicide rate. For example, compare the next-door neighbors Oak Park and Austin west of The Loop. The Eisenhower Expressway runs through Oak Park, but not through Austin. Yet the homicide rate is several dozen times worse in Austin.
[Kevin] Drum, who lives in Irvine, at least should be familiar with Southern California, where South-Central is fairly light in traffic compared to the jammed freeway interchanges of upscale West LA and Sherman Oaks.
And across the country, the densest neighborhoods are typically the various Chinatowns, which suffer little street crime and enjoy high math scores.
Reyes goes on:
"Note that the story for paint lead may be substantially different, since paint exposures are likely to follow the familiar pattern whereby the disadvantaged suffer greater exposure and the advantaged are largely insulated."
But fears of poor children eating lead paint flakes off the walls were a big deal in the newspapers in the middle of the 20th Century. In Chicago, liberals argued for tearing down old tenements and constructing giant high rise public housing projects like Cabrini Green specifically to cut down on poor children’s exposure to lead paint.
How’d that work out?
I’d add that Reyes should watch out for statistically assuming that the amount of lead spewed into the atmosphere by cars roaring about is the causal variable on more risky, more liberated youth behavior. It could be that cars themselves were what were causing youths in states with lots of driving to behave in less old-fashioned ways by getting them out from under the supervision of elders.
A measure of gasoline lead pollution in a state also serves as a measure of the number of automobiles and the number of miles driven in a state, which over the course of the 20th Century tended to correlate with loosening strictures on the behavior of young people, who were off gallivanting about doing who knows what in the back seats of their cars. See American Graffiti and countless other movies for details
For most of the 20th Century, for instance, California tended to be car crazy and tended to lead the country in youth trends, a point made by Tom Wolfe in his first breakthrough essay The Kandy Kolored Tangerine Flake Streamline Baby. As noted brain chemical researcher Brian Wilson pointed out:
And she’ll have fun, fun, fun
Until her daddy takes the T-Bird away
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