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January 5, 2006


To the editor:

It seems to me that Pitt professor Donald M. Goldstein was inconsistent in his claim that the atom bombing of Japan was necessary to end World War II, as portrayed in your article: “Despite some historians’ views, Pitt’s Goldstein maintains bomb was key in ending war,” by Peter Hart (University Times, Dec. 8, 2005).

After telling us, according to the article, “that the dropping of atomic bombs was the primary reason for ending the war,” he seems to veer toward the revisionist idea that he supposedly rejects, that President Truman used the bomb because “we had to win the Pacific war without Russia” in order to preserve U.S. long-term cold-war interests. He also concedes that the U.S. “would have won the war, probably in a matter of weeks or months, even without dropping the bombs.”

So, did we have to drop the atomic bombs? Or was it just to keep Russia out of the peace treaty by ending the war before its forces could be fully engaged? The first is his headline contention, but the latter seems the underlying truth. So, did the bombs actually save lives, all in all, as Goldstein contends? Some wonder if the U.S. might have prolonged the war by publicly insisting on unconditional surrender until after the dropping of the bombs when we allowed that Japan could keep the Emperor, albeit only as a figure-head. Certainly this belated concession by us paved the way for the surrender and assured Japanese compliance.

And if Japan hadn’t surrendered, was an invasion and occupation actually necessary, given its devastation and besiegement? Isn’t the notion of total victory — Korea, Vietnam, Iraq — still haunting our empire?

Despite Goldstein’s claim that not one vet ever regretted using the bomb, many probably have, including historian Howard Zinn, and also a close personal friend of mine who was in the Pacific at the time. If it was necessary in some sense, it remains not that clear. Two WMDs aimed at the center of two cities previously not targeted because they weren’t military targets: anything dubious here?

Jim Scofield


Johnstown campus


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