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"War is too serious a matter to entrust to military men."
~ Georges Clemenceau, French premier during World War I.

"In wartime, truth is so precious that she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies." ~ Winston Churchill

War montage shadow


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Military / war blogs:


 

U.S. war fatalities
in Afghanistan

Month Monthly deaths Cum. deaths
Oct. 2001 3 3
Nov. 2001 5 8
Dec. 2001 4 12
Jan. 2002 10 22
Feb. 2002 12 34
Mar. 2002 9 43
Apr. 2002 4 47
May 2002 1 48
June 2002 3 51
July 2002 0 51
Aug. 2002 1 52
Sept. 2002 0 52
Oct. 2002 5 57
Nov. 2002 2 59
Dec. 2002 1 60
Jan. 2003 4 64
Feb. 2003 7 71
Mar. 2003 11 82
Apr. 2003 2 84
May 2003 1 85
June 2003 3 88
July 2003 1 89
Aug. 2003 4 93
Sept. 2003 2 95
Oct. 2003 3 98
Nov. 2003 6 104
Dec. 2003 1 105
Jan. 2004 9 114
Feb. 2004 2 116
Mar. 2004 3 119
Apr. 2004 3 122
May 2004 8 130
June 2004 5 135
July 2004 2 137
Aug. 2004 3 140
Sept. 2004 4 144
Oct. 2004 5 149
Nov. 2004 7 156
Dec. 2004 1 157
Jan. 2005 2 159
Feb. 2005 1 160
Mar. 2005 6 166
Apr. 2005 18 184
May 2005 4 188
June 2005 27 205
July 2005 2 207
Aug. 2005 15 222
Sept. 2005 11 233
Oct. 2005 7 240
Nov. 2005 3 243
Dec. 2005 3 246
Jan. 2006 1 247
Feb. 2006 17 254
Mar. 2006 10 264
Apr. 2006 1 265
May 2006 11 276
June 2006 18 294
July 2006 9 203
Aug. 2006 10 213
Sept. 2006 6 219
Oct. 2006 10 229
Nov. 2006 7 236
Dec. 2006 1 237
Jan. 2007 0 237
Feb. 2007 14 251
Mar. 2007 5 256
Apr. 2007 8 264
May 2007 11 275
June 2007 12 287
July 2007 14 301
Aug. 2007 17 318
Sept. 2007 9 327
Oct. 2007 10 337
Nov. 2007 11 348
Dec. 2007 6 354
Jan. 2008 7 361
Feb. 2008 1 362
Mar. 2008 8 370
Apr. 2008 5 375
May 2008 17 392
June 2008 28 420
July 2008 20 448
Aug. 2008 22 470
Sept. 2008 27 497
Oct. 2008 16 513
Nov. 2008 1 514
Dec. 2008 3 517
Jan. 2009 15 532
Feb. 2009 15 547
Mar. 2009 13 560
Apr. 2009 6 566
May 2009 12 578
June 2009 25 603
July 2009 45 648
Aug. 2009 51 699
Sept. 2009 40 739
Oct. 2009 59 798
Nov. 2009 18 816
Dec. 2009 18 834
Jan. 2010 30 864
Feb. 2010 31 895
Mar. 2010 26 921
Apr. 2010 20 941
May 2010 34 975
June 2010 60 1035
July 2010 65 1100
Aug. 2010 55 1155
Sept. 2010 42 1197
Oct. 2010 50 1247
Nov. 2010 53 1300
Dec. 2010 33 1333
Jan. 2011 25 1358
Feb. 2011 20 1378
Mar. 2011 31 1409
Apr. 2011 46 1455
May 2011 35 1490
June 2011 47 1537
July 2011 37 1574
Aug. 2011 71 1645
Sept. 2011 42 1687
Oct. 2011 31 1718
Nov. 2011 10 1728
Dec. 2011
*

NOTE: "There have been 533 U.S. combat deaths to date in Operation Enduring Freedom, which includes Afghanistan and other areas." SOURCES: Washington Post, July 2, 2008; Apr. 9, 2009; icasualties.org

August 6, 2020 [LINK / comment]

The 75th anniversary of Hiroshima

75 years ago today, on August 6, 1945, a United States B-29 bomber dropped an atomic bomb on the city of Hiroshima, in the western part of the main Japanese island of Honshu. It instantly killed about 80,000 Japanese people, out of a total population of 280,000, and left many thousands more horribly burned. Estimates of the susequent death toll from radiation sickness vary widely, but it is quite possible that an even greater number died in the years that followed. Three days later, the same thing happened to the city of Nagasaki, on the west coast of the island of Kyushu, killing at least 35,000 people. The first bomb, nicknamed "Little Boy" because of its slim shape, used two big chunks of uranium-235 that were rammed together to create a critical mass necessary for chain-reaction fission to take place. The second bomb, nicknamed "Fat Man," used several smaller chunks of plutonium-239 that were imploded with a sophisticated timing device. No one involved with those missions knew for sure that the bombers would reach their targets, that the bombs would work properly after being dropped, or how much death and destruction they would cause.

Today's Washington Post had several articles related to the bombing of Hiroshima, including a dramatic narrative of the flight of the B-29, nicknamed "Enola Gay" after the mother of the pilot, Col. Paul Tibbetts. Most of his crew members (12 altogether) did not know the nature of their secret mission until he disclosed it to them as the aircraft was approaching Japan. How would they have reacted if they had been told before the plane took off? This was a new era of warfare, almost beyond comprehension in scope, and the guilt over what some people would consider mass murder might have been too much for some of the men to bear. The article linked above mentions that about 97,000 people had died after U.S. bombers rained incendiary hell over the capital city of Tokyo the previous March, and many thousands died in other cities as well. If the United States sought revenge for the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, this was going way overboard.

This is an appropriate time to reexamine the decision to develop the atomic bomb, and once the technology was proven in New Mexico on July 16, 1945, to actually use it against Japan. As World War II was unfolding, Albert Einstein wrote a letter to urge President Roosevelt to explore the military uses of nuclear energy, and this is what led to the Manhattan Project. As a German Jewish refugee, Einstein was well aware that Hitler was determined to exploit technology to the utmost, and the later V-1 and V-2 missile programs showed just how adept the Germans were at doing so. Fear of a possible German atomic bomb is what spurred the Americans into their all-out effort to develop the bomb. (One lesson of this is that, if Germany had managed to resist the Allies for a few more months, we might have dropped the first atomic bomb on Berlin or some other German city.) Secret military research bases were built in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, Hanford, Washington, and Los Almamos, New Mexico. Robert Oppenheimer led the scientific research effort, and General Leslie Groves headed the military organization overseeing everything. It was dangerous work, and some of the workers died from radiation poisoning or other things.

But once Germany was defeated in May 1945, was there a compelling reason to use the nuclear bomb against Japan? Over 100,000 American servicemen had already died fighting Japan by August, and the prolonged, bloody conquest of the Japanese island of Okinawa was a taste of what was sure to come if we had to invade Japan itself. The plan was to invade Kyushu in November 1945, and the main island of Honshu (where Tokyo is located) in March 1946. Over a million American soldiers and Marines would be needed to subjugate the enemy, and a death toll of up to 100,000 or even more was entirely possible. Given their pattern of fanatic resistance, it is likely that over a million Japanese would have died while defending their homeland. So while one can make the conventional utilitarian calculation that the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki probably saved many lives by forcing the Japanese to surrender, that is merely guesswork. No one really knows whether Emperor Hirohito would have demanded that his generals end the war.

Personally, I think the decision to use the atomic bomb was justified, but I wish that they had staged a "demonstration" blast a few miles offshore from Tokyo as a warning shot. That would have made the American threat (announced in propaganda leaflets dropped by U.S. bomber aircraft) that Japan's cities would soon be completely destroyed unless it surrendered a lot more convincing. Perhaps the decision not to do so can be explained the fact that only two such bombs were available at the time, and it would take months to build additional ones.

There is another uncomfortable moral angle to all this: did the use of the atomic bomb amount to "terrorism"? Quite possibly, but it was hardly the first time the Allies had done this. Britain had launched brutal mass night bombing attacks against Cologne and Hamburg in 1943, deliberately killing many thousands of German civilians in a misguided attempt to demoralize them. It didn't work. The fire-bombing of Dresden in February 1945 and of Tokyo one month later were likewise cruel exercises of raw military power that yielded little if any strategic benefit. From that point of view, Hiroshima and Nagasaki were just a small step up the ladder of escalation.

The shadow of potential global extermination from an all-out nuclear war hung over mankind from the 1950s until the end of the 1980s -- four decades of apocalyptic fear. I remember "duck and cover" air raid drills in elementary schools, which was actually rather absurd given that a small midwestern town was an unlikely target, but for someone in Brooklyn, New York or Seattle, Washington, it was not beyond the realm of possibilities. It was because of the radical incompatibility of the main Cold War adversaries that all-out nuclear was even conceivable. Pacifists claimed that "no one" would win a nuclear war, while strategic thinkers such as Herman Kahn pondered the various scenarios of escalation, trying assess the utility of various nuclear force levels in deterring aggression by the Soviets. It is important to point out that the United States did not rule out the first use of nuclear weapons during the Cold War, despite its otherwise clear moral standing as a free democracy. Because of the superiority in conventional forces possessed by the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies in Europe, West Germany and our other NATO allies were in jeopardy of being conquered in a matter of weeks. Nuclear weapons were the "ace in the hole" that might have been the only way to prevent a Soviet victory in World War III.

Titan missile in silo

This disarmed Titan missile was (and probably still is) on display in its launching silo, south of Tucson, Arizona, on June 28, 2014. (For a decription of my trip see my March 4, 2019 blog post; more photographs of the Titan Missile Museum can be seen in my Chronological (2014) photo gallery.)

To get a better perspective on the military context behind the decision to drop the bomb, see my World War Two page, with newly-updated interactive maps.




Disclaimer: My military experience is limited to one semester of ROTC at the University of South Dakota.

War books:



U.S. war fatalities
in Iraq

Month Monthly deaths Cum. deaths
Mar. 2003 65 65
Apr. 2003 73 138
May 2003 37 175
June 2003 30 205
July 2003 47 252
Aug. 2003 35 287
Sept. 2003 30 317
Oct. 2003 43 360
Nov. 2003 82 442
Dec. 2003 40 482
Jan. 2004 47 529
Feb. 2004 19 548
Mar. 2004 52 600
Apr. 2004 135 735
May 2004 80 815
June 2004 42 857
July 2004 54 905
Aug. 2004 66 971
Sept. 2004 81 1052
Oct. 2004 63 1121
Nov. 2004 137 1258
Dec. 2004 72 1330
Jan. 2005 107 1437
Feb. 2005 58 1495
Mar. 2005 36 1531
Apr. 2005 52 1583
May 2005 79 1662
June 2005 77 1739
July 2005 54 1793
Aug. 2005 84 1877
Sept. 2005 48 1925
Oct. 2005 96 2021
Nov. 2005 83 2104
Dec. 2005 66 2170
Jan. 2006 61 2231
Feb. 2006 53 2284
Mar. 2006 30 2314
Apr. 2006 74 2388
May 2006 69 2457
June 2006 59 2516
July 2006 42 2558
Aug. 2006 65 2623
Sept. 2006 70 2693
Oct. 2006 100 2793
Nov. 2006 63 2856
Dec. 2006 105 2961
Jan. 2007 82 3043
Feb. 2007 81 3124
Mar. 2007 75 3199
Apr. 2007 102 3301
May 2007 121 3422
June 2007 98 3520
July 2007 75 3595
Aug. 2007 77 3672
Sept. 2007 62 3734
Oct. 2007 37 3771
Nov. 2007 35 3806
Dec. 2007 23 3829
Jan. 2008 40 3869
Feb. 2008 29 3898
Mar. 2008 37 3935
Apr. 2008 51 3988
May 2008 20 4008
June 2008 28 4036
July 2008 13 4049
Aug. 2008 22 4071
Sept. 2008 25 4097
Oct. 2008 13 4110
Nov. 2008 16 4126
Dec. 2008 13 4139
Jan. 2009 16 4154
Feb. 2009 17 4172
Mar. 2009 9 4181
Apr. 2009 17 4198
May 2009 25 4223
June 2009 14 4237
July 2009 8 4245
Aug. 2009 7 4252
Sept. 2009 10 4262
Oct. 2009 7 4269
Nov. 2009 10 4279
Dec. 2009 3 4282
Jan. 2010 6 4288
Feb. 2010 6 4294
Mar. 2010 7 4301
Apr. 2010 8 4309
May 2010 6 4315
June 2010 8 4323
July 2010 4 4327
Aug. 2010 3 4330
Sept. 2010 7 4337
Oct. 2010 2 4339
Nov. 2010 2 4341
Dec. 2010 1 4342
Jan. 2011 6 4348
Feb. 2011 3 4351
Mar. 2011 2 4353
Apr. 2011 11 4364
May 2011 6 4372
June 2011 15 4387
July 2011 5 4392
Aug. 2011 0 4392
Sept. 2011 4 4396
Oct. 2011 5 4401
Nov. 2011 2 4403
Dec. 2011
Data for 2010-2011 pertain to all Coalition forces, and may include some non-U.S. fatalities.

NOTE: Includes all deaths, caused by enemy forces or not. Excludes military personnel (5, as of June 2009) whose names have not been released because their next of kin have not yet been contacted.

SOURCES: strategypage.com,
GlobalSecurity.org, icasualties.org,
Washington Post, Sept. 8, 2004