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Sunday, December 01, 2002

The Second World War, the Bomb and Dresden.

Madeleine really, really needs to learn to sleep in on the weekend.

An interesting story from CNN on an August 1944 suggestion by Britain's spymaster that the Allies threaten Germany with the Bomb if the Nazis began V2 missile attacks on Britain. An understandable suggestion, given that, unlike the slow, easily-stopped V1, there was no defense against the supersonic V2. The only way to "stop" the V2 was to take out the launchers. The threat was never made, and rightly so: given the Bomb's state of development, it would have been a bluff, easily called.

The problem with the article is the final paragraph:

"In the event, atomic weapons were not used in World War II until August 1945, at Hiroshima when 200,000 Japanese were killed."

First, the actual death toll, while still appalling, was approximately one-third that claimed by CNN: 70,000, as opposed to 200,000.

The more troubling aspect is the implication that the Allies, being racists, decided not to use the Bomb on fellow "white folks," and saved it for the more hated Japanese: "[A]tomic weapons were not used...until August 1945, at Hiroshima").

Well, duh. The bomb was not even tested until July 16, 1945, near Alamogordo, New Mexico. Germany had unconditionally surrendered on May 8, 1945. It could just be me, but I think it could be considered bad form to bomb someone two months after they surrender. Not to mention creating an aggravating environmental hazard for your occupation troops.

More significantly, while it is clear that there was a profound racial hatred for the Japanese that exceeded that toward Nazi Germany, it is equally clear that the Bomb would have been used against the Germans first had the war in Europe lasted longer. Indeed, it cannot be denied that the Allies showed a similar ferocity toward Germans at Dresden. In fact, it could be argued that the unblinking focus on Hiroshima and continued ignorance of Dresden (which contributed nothing to the victory in Europe) is itself a form of racism.

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