Anger over remarks about the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki forced the Japanese defense minister to apologize today. Fumio Kyuma had told an audience the previous day that he held no grudge against the United States, as the bombings forced Japan to surrender before the Soviet Union had a chance to invade:
Japan’s defense minister apologized on Sunday for comments about the 1945 U.S. atomic bomb attacks on the country which outraged survivors and drew criticism from the ruling bloc ahead of a key election in late July.
Defense Minister Fumio Kyuma said he had not meant to offend the victims when he said on Saturday the bombings “couldn’t be helped” because they had brought World War Two to an end and had prevented the Soviet Union from entering the war against Japan.
“If my remarks were seen as lacking regard for the feelings of atomic bomb victims, then I am sorry,” he told a news conference.
On Saturday, Kyuma had said in a speech: “My understanding is that it ended the war and that it couldn’t be helped … I don’t hold a grudge against the United States.”
The remarks infuriated victims of the bombings and others in Japan, who continue to see themselves as more sinned against in World War II than sinners themselves. Ten days ago, Japan’s government started a firestorm of protest by toning down significant aspects of their wartime atrocities in history textbooks. Okinawans reacted in fury to one change, which downplayed the Japanese Army’s role in forcing thousands of civilians on the island to commit “suicide” rather than to surrender to the American military.
That reaction paled in comparison to the worldwide condemnation of a group within Japan’s ruling party, who declared that the Rape of Nanking was a fabrication. In six weeks, the Japanese killed between 150,000-300,000 civilians in a city that presented no wartime threat to Japan. The disciplined Imperial Army turned into a pillage movement, raping women, killing civilians indiscriminately and purposely. They put the city to the torch — and it wasn’t an isolated incident. After getting a bloody nose from the Chinese in Shanghai, they pillaged all the way to Nanking.
The Japanese have refused to acknowledge these atrocities, and many more besides, which gives them the intellectual cover to consider themselves victims in the final two bombings of the war. In truth, the Japanese had conducted themselves as brutally and as cruelly as any army could possibly have. In Okinawa, they made it clear that they would murder their own people before admitting military defeat, and they had even less compunction about murdering civilians in other nations, as the Chinese and Filipinos can attest.
Faced off against that kind of enemy, the US had no choice but to use the most powerful weapon in its arsenal to avoid the inch-by-inch massacre of an invasion of the main island. The Japanese refused to surrender, still believing in their megalomaniacal mission to rule Asia to the very end. Hiroshima and Nagasaki were significant cities for Japan’s war effort, and the US warned Japan that we would target them with a terrible new weapon if they did not surrender. And as Kyuma notes, the Soviet Union had finally declared war on Japan, and they would have been more than interested in carving up the islands as they were with Germany and eastern Europe.
Kyuma has no reason to apologize. The Japanese should pull their heads out of the darkness and start acknowledging that their brutality and bloodthirstiness in a decade of war in Asia led to the inevitable in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.