Father Wilson Miscamble Defends the Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki


By July of 1945, the Japanese had undergone months of devastating attacks by American B-29s. Their capital and other major cities had suffered extensive damage, and their home islands were subjected to a naval blockade that made food and fuel increasingly scarce. Japanese military and civilian losses had reached approximately three million, and there seemed to be no end in sight. Despite all this, Japan’s leaders and military clung fiercely to notions of Ketsu-Go: a plan that centered on inflicting such punishment on the invader in defense of the homeland that he would sue for terms. In fact, even after Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and the Soviet attack in Manchuria, the Japanese military still wanted to pursue that desperate option, but Emperor Hirohito broke the impasse in the Japanese government and ordered surrender. He came to understand that the atomic bomb undermined (as the brilliant historian Richard Frank has noted) “the fundamental premise” of Ketsu-Go “that the United States would have to invade Japan to secure a decision” in the war. Ultimately, the atomic bombs allowed the emperor and the “peace faction” in the Japanese government to negotiate an end to the war.

Of course, the United States eventually could have defeated Japan without the atomic bomb, but all the viable alternate scenarios to secure victory—continued obliteration bombing of Japanese cities and infrastructure, a choking blockade, the likely terrible invasions involving massive firepower—would have meant significantly greater Allied casualties and higher Japanese civilian and military casualties. These casualties would likely have included thousands of Allied prisoners of war whom the Japanese planned to execute. Notably, all of these options also would have indirectly involved some “intentional killing of innocents,” including the naval blockade, which sought to starve the Japanese into submission. Hard as it may be to accept when one sees the visual evidence of the terrible destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japanese losses probably would have been substantially greater without the A-bombs.

Moreover, the use of these awful weapons abruptly ended the death and suffering of innocent third parties throughout Asia. Rather surprisingly, the enormous wartime losses of the Chinese, Koreans, Filipinos, Vietnamese, and Javanese at the hands of the Japanese receive little attention in weighing the American effort to shock the Japanese into surrender. The losses in Hiroshima and Nagasaki were horrific, but they pale in comparison to the estimates of seventeen to twenty-four million deaths attributed to the Japanese’s hideous rampage from Manchuria to New Guinea. The thoughtful scholar Robert Newman explains that “the last months were in many ways the worst; starvation and disease aggravated the usual beatings, beheadings and battle deaths. It is plausible to hold that upwards of two-hundred-fifty thousand people, mostly Asian but some Westerners, would have died each month the Japanese Empire struggled in its death throes beyond July 1945.” Surely these persons also are “innocents” deserving of some concern in our moral calculations?

Bluntly put, the atomic bombs shortened the war, averted the need for a land invasion, saved countless more lives on both sides of the ghastly conflict than they cost, and brought to an end the Japanese brutalization of the conquered peoples of Asia.

Subsequent to their use, Harry Truman maintained that dropping the bombs had been necessary, having ended the war and saved numerous lives. This conviction, however, did not stave off his own serious moral qualms about the action. He never again spoke of the atomic bombs as military weapons to which the United States could make easy resort. He rightly indicated some retreat from his pre-Hiroshima view that the A-bomb was just another military weapon.


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  1. The moral tug-of-war appears to be between two essential principles; no one may do evil to bring about a good, and the lesser of two evils is permissible.
    I’m glad I wasn’t Harry Truman, having to make that decision.

    How far we’ve come down as a civilization where our leaders now aggressively defend the taking of millions of innocent life and the wanton sale of their bodies and parts for..ugh…profit!

  2. War: Hemingway knew (WWI and Spanish Civil War) war up close and personal. He wrote, “War is a crime. Go ask the infantry. Go ask the dead.”

    You can justify war, but that doesn’t make it any less a crime/sin.

    Meanwhile, the liberal, Hiroshima whiners are dumb on abortion, artificial contraception, class hatred, gay privileges, race hatred, satanic brainwashing of public school children, etc.

  3. “How far we’ve come down as a civilization where our leaders now aggressively defend the taking of millions of innocent life and the wanton sale of their bodies and parts for..ugh…profit!”

    Yep, and how many Catholics today will scream about Hiroshima seventy years ago who don’t say a peep about Planned Parenthood, and/or who give their votes to the Democrat Party that views abortion as a sacred rite? By no means are all Catholic critics of Hiroshima in that category, for example Anscombe was a firm pro-lifer, but enough are to make the hypocrisy we will doubtless see on display today truly nauseating.

  4. Yep, and how many Catholics today will scream about Hiroshima seventy years ago who don’t say a peep about Planned Parenthood, and/or who give their votes to the Democrat Party that views abortion as a sacred rite?

    Speaking somewhat impressionistically, I’d say those who are argumentative on this issue appear to be alt-right types for the most part, who vote Democratic (if they do) as an expression of general perversity (Scott McConnell, etc). Others are oddball populists like the chap who wrote the “From the Mail” column in The Wanderer (though I do not recall that he himself has written on this issue). Liberal Catholics tend to favor disputes in which they can display their sophistication tail feathers, not their moral tail feathers.

  5. I think what upsets people is the enormity of what Little Boy did at Hiroshima. A single ten thousand pound bomb, of which 161 pounds was U-235, no more than 2 pounds of which underwent fission, released the energy equivalent of 30 million pounds of tnt, accomplishing nearly instantaneously what otherwise would have taken however long it would have taken for “220 B-29s carrying 1,200 tons of incendiary bombs, 400 tons of high-explosive bombs, and 500 tons of anti-personnel fragmentation bombs” to achieve the same result.(source)
    Of course, it was that enormity which compelled the Japanese to surrender, as Fr. Miscamble remarked. But still, maybe it would have been better if we had killed Hiroshima the old fashioned way.

  6. “But still, maybe it would have been better if we had killed Hiroshima the old fashioned way.”

    Well, that is one thing that would have made people forget about Hiroshima. The other is, of course, the next nuclear war.

  7. Yeah, but see, maybe we would have been the victims in that nuclear war, and for some people, there’s no higher status than Victim
    –not even Celebrity.

  8. Ernst –
    energy equivalent is a bad metric; the incendiary bombs alone would have a large secondary “energy” because…well, you’ve seen how the old Japanese stuff was built, and I’m guessing you can imagine what the wind off of the sea would be like.

    *shudder* Right up the ridges in the hills, and if it wasn’t Americans dropping them, then there wouldn’t be the “run away, NOW” warning to the Japanese civilians….

  9. I just think it’s interesting that we could have accomplished the same death and destruction by conventional means, so my question for the critics of the A-bomb is what exactly is it about the atomic bombing that you find so morally objectionable?

  10. Sorry couldn’t get through the article. A mass of words!

    Some simple formatting ie more paragraphs would make it an easier read plus being in blue is not ideal either.

    If you want to get your views/ideas across you have to make the content easy to consume and the above isn’t.

  11. I have this section of the article written by Father Miscamble in the same five paragraphs he had. As for the blue, when I link to another article, as I do here, the linked passage shows blue on the blog. Try clicking on the blue and you will go to the original text. It is well worth reading.

  12. The good Fr. Wilson fails to identify that many tens of thousands of faithful Catholics were murdered of these three Orders of Nuns who took care of the sick at the Catholic Hospital and the two Priests who were hearing Confessions of many Catholics when the Cathedral took a direct hit. But most of all out of all the Catholic churches that were consumed by the radioactive fireball were all the Tabernacles holding the living Body of Christ. Christ suffered as much and that is very telling in this horrible event but much overlooked and Judgment Day that is sure to come shall be very interesting on our Lords Witnessing the event from His Churches.

  13. I wonder how many Catholic churches were destroyed by Japan during its war of conquest and how many priests and nuns, not to mention ordinary Catholics, were murdered by the sons of the Rising Sun? Considering that the Japanese killed some twenty million people, the Catholic portion probably exceeded a million. An estimated one million Filipinos died as a result of the Japanese invasion and most of them would have been Catholic.

    “In the Battle of Manila from February to March 1945, the United States Army and the Philippine Commonwealth Army advanced into the city of Manila to drive out the Japanese. During lulls in the battle for control of the city, Japanese troops took out their anger and frustration on the civilians in the city. Violent mutilations, rapes, and massacres occurred in schools, hospitals and convents, including San Juan de Dios Hospital, Santa Rosa College, Santo Domingo Church, Manila Cathedral, Paco Church, St. Paul’s Convent, and St. Vincent de Paul Church.[1]:113 Dr Antonio Gisbert told of the murder of his father and brother at the Palacio del Gobernador, saying, “I am one of those few survivors, not more than 50 in all out of more than 3000 men herded into Fort Santiago and, two days later, massacred.”

    The US defeated a great evil in the Pacific War and Hiroshima and Nagasaki brought the curtain down on a shower of bloodshed that people today are almost completely ignorant of, except for the politicized condemnation of the US for the blood shed to bring the whole business to a mercifully rapid close.

  14. Don, I was about to respond to Sixtus, as a result of long research I once did for a book on Bataan and the Philippines.
    But after reading your much more informed response to Sixtus (about his moral equivalency attempt), I stand humbled.

  15. College kids in skivvies sitting around the dorm at 2AM and sanctimonious hypocrites, liberals and progressives can whine about the A bombs as most hadn’t lived (if you can call it living) with instant death and dismemberment. That’s my final ad hominem for today.
    Final word to the sanctimonious from my Uncle Bob (RIP), he was a machinist mate/engine rooms in USN Liberty ships, on Hiroshima/Nagasaki. “The A bombs saved my life.” His only other response (catch-all “brevity is the soul of wit” response for all hypocrites, liberals and progressives) would have been, “Screw you.”

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