Posted by Anita Folsom
These questions come up year after year: Why did the U.S. drop the atomic bombs on Japan? Was this the right strategy? Was it morally the right thing to do?
Seventy years ago, in August 1945, the United States dropped two atomic bombs that led to Japan’s surrender and the end of World War II. That’s when those questions began.
A prisoner of war who witnessed the atomic bomb exploding over Nagasaki gives a compelling argument that yes, dropping the bombs was exactly the right thing to do. Lester Tenney had joined the U.S. Army in 1940, thinking that he would get his military service over in a hurry, get back to civilian life, and finish his education. He was assigned to the 192nd Tank Battalion and sent to the Philippines, just in time to be there when the Japanese attacked. Lester was captured on Bataan, survived the Bataan Death March, and sent by his captors on a “hell ship” to Japan to work as a slave laborer.
Here is part of his story:
“In the late spring of 1945, I saw that the cruelty with which we prisoners of war were treated was only increasing. Our guards told us that Japanese units facing attack had received orders to kill all military and civilian POWs in their custody. They were to unburden themselves to focus on the fight. The executions were to begin August 17….
Early on the morning of August 9, from the POW camp where I was held some 30 miles across a bay, I saw the sky over Nagasaki change. It glowed red and the air tuned warm against my skin. Until then, red was the color of my subjugation. My Japanese guards were certain that red had a uniquely Japanese meaning. It wasn’t just the central color of their flag, it was viewed as emotionally representative of their pure spirit and sincerity. The red sky over Nagasaki ended those illusions.
“At that moment, I made a bet with a friend that soon we would all be set free. I was right.” (Wall Street Journal, 8/8/15)
Lester Tenney survived his captivity because World War II ended suddenly, with an announcement by the Japanese emperor to his people on August 15th that the war was over. Japan had surrendered.
If you wish to learn more about why the U.S. dropped the atomic bombs, go to PragerUniversity.com for their brief video on “Was It Wrong to Drop the Atom Bomb on Japan?”
Also, read FDR Goes to War (co-authored by Burton and Anita Folsom).
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Read Burton and Anita Folsom’s newest book, Death on Hold, released by Thomas Nelson Publishing on August 11th. This book is quite a departure from the Folsoms’ usual texts on economic history, but it is the riveting story of the transformation of a prisoner. Not a POW such as Lester Tenney in the story above, but a prisoner who was transformed by the grace of God.