“I felt, the bomb was successful, the mission was successful, and the entire Manhattan Project was successful,” he said. “And so we were going to end the war or significantly shorten the war. And that’s what we were trying to do.”
Kirk said that the feeling he had at that time hasn’t changed in the 60 years since. He also answered a question many Japanese people have in mind; was it necessary to drop the bomb?
“Well, my personal feeling was that Japan was a beaten nation before we ever dropped the atomic bomb. Eighty-five percent of the industrial capacity of Japan was ruined before we ever dropped the bomb,” he said. “A rational, knowledgeable people would have ended the war a long time before we ever dropped the bombs … They wanted to fight the last big battle on the beaches.”
Kirk then said that more people would have lost their lives if the bombs had not been used against Japan.
“No question about it. Even if there had not been an invasion, there would have been a lot more people (dead) as a result of not ending the war.”
This is not a new opinion, obviously, but I wanted to establish that before I went on to quote the following:
Perhaps ironically, Kirk — like many people around the world — hopes the bomb will disappear from the globe.
“I think it should be abolished. I really do. But if we are going to have anybody that has an atomic bomb, then I want one more than anybody else,” Kirk said.
I am having trouble with this basically because I share that opinion, and I tend to suspect my own opinions of being ill-informed. It also seems paradoxical to me to claim that the decision to nuke was the right one at the time, but that it will always be the wrong one in the future. That doesn’t seem like a claim you can make. I guess you can argue that people didn’t have all the information back then–maybe they thought it was just a big bomb, and didn’t realize that with the explosion would come horrible radiation sickness. Assuming that was the case, then the previous argument can work. The decision was made without complete information. It was the best decision possible at the time. But now we know better. We know that there should always be another way.
Of course, I have no idea if the ignorance my rationalization requires was a reality for those who made the decision to use the bomb.
(I probably don’t need to point out that the second part of Kirk’s statement at the end of the article is problematic–as long as there are governments that share that opinion, there is zero chance of the bomb ever being “abolished”.)