As a Catholic, What do you think about Hiroshima?

What is your opinion on the matter?

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church #2314: “Every act of war directed to the indiscriminate destruction of whole cities or vast areas with their inhabitants is a crime against God and man, which merits firm and unequivocal condemnation. A danger of modern warfare is that it provides the opportunity to those who possess modern scientific weapons especially atomic, biological, or chemical weapons - to commit such crimes.”

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church #2314: “Every act of war directed to the indiscriminate destruction of whole cities or vast areas with their inhabitants is a crime against God and man, which merits firm and unequivocal condemnation. A danger of modern warfare is that it provides the opportunity to those who possess modern scientific weapons especially atomic, biological, or chemical weapons - to commit such crimes.”

Hi following the way:

I wanted to comment here because it seems that some people (such as myself) will be tempted to pick both choices. The morality of war is always problematic, so Catholic theologians developed the theory of “just war” under Medieval scholastics like Augustine and Aquinas. Basically, the damage caused by the aggressor must be significant (it was); other means of ending the conflict were ineffective (not sure about that); the methods used (tactics, weapons) must be significant enough to ensure success (almost certainly true); and the weapons used must not cause more evil than the evil you’re trying to eliminate (I think that’s hard to argue here). The Catechism (2314) has more:

“Every act of war directed to the indiscriminate destruction of whole cities or vast areas with their inhabitants is a crime against God and man, which merits firm and unequivocal condemnation. A danger of modern warfare is that it provides the opportunity to those who possess modern scientific weapons – especially atomic, biological, or chemical weapons – to commit such crimes.”

I think it’s clear that the Hiroshima atomic bomb is an example of the “indiscriminate destruction of whole cities or vast areas with their inhabitants”, as much of the city was destroyed and 70,000 people (mainly civilians) died. So it seems clear that the bombing was a moral evil. On the other hand, some military historians have looked at Allied battle plans, noting that the cities of Honshu and Kyushu would have been invaded in the autumn and winter of 1945 (had the Japanese not surrendered after the atomic attacks).

These scholars argue that the alternative to the Atomic Bomb was a full scale invasion of the Japanese mainland by Allied forces, which would have resulted in casualties exceeding 1 million (Allied soldiers) and 2-3 million (Japanese). So their take on it, basically, is that the Bomb, horrendous as it was, was the “lesser of two evils”. So if you believe this view, then I suppose, yes, it is morally wrong, and yes, we had to do it. Unfortunately, for many modern problems, there may not be definitive “black and white, right or wrong” answers…not all problems are soluble.

I hope this helps.


The usual justification for using the atomic bomb against two Japanese cities is that it saved at least a million American lives. However, using the exact same reasoning, then this would also be justified–if the Japanese had developed the atomic bomb first and used it on two American cities–say Washington and New York City–and saved at least a million Japanese lives, they would have been morally justified doing this. Still today, in 2011, they would be justified in saying that it was morally right to use the atomic bomb against U.S. cities then.

Hi mdgspencer:

Well, as you said. But I think the military historians are saying more than this…that preventing an invasion of the Japanese homelands saved 1 million Americans and 2-3 million Japanese. So it isn’t just the Americans who “benefitted” here. I don’t want to engage in speculative history, as there was no way Japan could have developed nuclear technology in the 1940s. There were only 2 nations really capable of this at the time, Germany (who under the Nazis started a nuclear weapons program at the beginning of the War, the uranverein) and the USA (the 1942 Manhattan project, ironically started by the German-American physicist and pacifist Albert Einstein). I think the Americans really started to develop nuclear weapons to fight Nazi Germany, but the research took so long (to the Spring of 1945) that by the time the weapons were made, the Nazis had surrendered and the only antagonist left in the war was Japan. So at the end of it all, the military commanders, eager to end the War and save further losses of life on both sides, decided to order the Atomic strikes. From a military point of view, I think they were trying to “minimize” the destruction needed to definitively end the conflict.


It ended the war early. It saved lives.

You know, we manufactured so many purple hearts in preparation for the eventual invasion of Japan that after all the conflicts in Korea, Vietnam, the Persian Gulf War, Iraq, and Afghanistan, not to mention Grenada, Panama, Mogadishu, Kosovo, etc., we’re still trying to use them up, and there are over 100,000 more sitting around in boxes. That should give you an idea of the quantity of casualties we anticipated suffering in an invasion.

And don’t forget the countless thousands of Japanese civilians who marched to commit “honorable” mass suicide wherever American troops landed. Yeah, I’m sure it would have worked out really great for everyone concerned if we had had to send a half-million troops to conquer the home islands.

The Japanese were as fanatical as the Nazis.they were told that the Americans would turn them into slaves,and the women would be raped,and children would be hurt.Japan was closed to the outside media just like Germany.There would have been fighting in the streets,all women without rifles would have committed suicide and Japan would have fought to the last man.The atom bomb was a necessary evil.

The Japanese considered trying to develop the atomic bomb and decided nuclear weapons were unfeasable. But what if the decision of the few officials who made it had gone the other way?
You raise the possibility that millions of Japanese lives were saved because the U.S. used nuclear weapons on two Japanese cities. (I doubt this, but this is another matter.) But what if Japan started wiping out major U.S. cities and ended the war? They could not only have saved a million Japanese lives but also saved all the American soldiers who would have died in the war afterwards. (A considerable number of U.S. soldiers lost their lives then.) Is it actually true that saving all these American lives could increase the moral justification for Japan’s use of nuclear weapons on U.S. cities?

The Japanese government, from the highest levels, was seeking a conditional surrender leading up to the atomic bombings, and the U.S. government knew this. Japan’s one “non-negotiable” was the status of the Emperor, but the U.S. and Great Britain wanted an unconditional surrender. After their unconditional surrender we left the Emperor in place anyway, so there was no reason to push that particular issue to the point of nuclear war. They were not insisting on keeping any territory they had claimed in the war. First hand document here.

Furthermore, an invasion was not at all necessary either; Japan’s navy was completely obliterated, and they did not have the natural resources on their home islands to support a war machine, let alone basic industry. They might have remained belligerent, but they wouldn’t have been able to do anything about it.

It’s possible that even after negotiation Japan wouldn’t have surrendered, that the militarists would have won out over the Emperor and continued the war. The problem is that the surrender offer was never even taken up or pursued.

This is not to excuse the horrendous things the Japanese government did to the occupied nations and their own people, it’s just to say that we should expect better of our own people.

Peace and God bless!

I think the question is not whether it should have been dropped, but where it should have been dropped. Hiroshima and Nagasaki had very little strategic value for destruction, but there were other centers of what little industry Japan had left in mid-1945, with far less civilians inhabiting them (I don’t recall what cities/bases right now).

Extreme loss of life is not necessary with a show of force as huge as the first two A-Bombs. This is going into speculative history, but I think that Japan would have surrendered, regardless of where the A-Bombs were dropped, but I may be wrong on that.

At any rate, I think we should all be thankful that WWII ended when it did. The war could very easily have continued with Russia afterwards, what with the numerous close calls regarding Berlin. Thanks be to God that it didn’t (I get the feeling that prayer helped on that one! :gopray2:).

That doesn’t hold water. It was the Japanese who started the war. They were the aggressor so nothing they did is justified. ALL loss of life was down to the Japanese, on their side and the US and its allies.
The US was the country attacked and are entitled to self defence. Like it or not the bombs were the way to end the war sooner and save countless lives more than were lost due to the bombs.

Have people forgotten that with the atomic bomb, unlike other types of warfare, people and their families are affected for generations. I dont see how any Christian can justify nuclear warfare - maybe they didnt realise it then, but now we know the full effects.

The difference (and to my mind it is HUGE difference) is that while we were fighting a “just” war of self defense, the Japanese were prosecuting an aggressive war that they launched against us because we brought diplomatic and economic pressure on them to try to curb their prosecution of yet another aggressive war against China.

Not at all the same thing.

Your post is like saying that a person who kills an assailant in self defense is no different from the assailant.

This is a legend that has never, as far as I know, been born out by facts. It is an invention of those Japanese who to this day refuse to recognize that their crushing defeat and horrendous air bombardment (both atomic and conventional which was actually worse!) was the result of their own atrocious behavior.

Even after TWO atomic attacks there were elements of the Japanese War Cabinet who were actively planning a coup d’etat against the Emperor in order to stop the surrender.

I’m a little skeptical of this claim. Consider the reaction of the German people as the Russians barreled into Berlin. Throwing rocks out of the windows of their homes, young boys running into the street to fight hardened soldiers, etc. They were desperate even on the verge of destruction.

On the other hand, Japan’s people were just as nationalistic but didn’t suffer quite as much as the Germans already had. They would’ve been capable of fighting back quite a bit during the invasion. My speculation is that it would’ve turned into something of guerilla warfare.

The whole idea that the Americans were the ones at fault (and that Japanese war crimes were grossly exaggerated) are actually still pretty alive in certain far-right circles here, for the record. :shrug:

Indeed. The one slogan that was popular during the war was uchiteshi yaman (撃ちてし止まむ), ‘fight to the death’, or more literally ‘attack to destruction’ (of the enemy, of course; i.e. keep on fighting until the enemy is vanquished). During the final phases of the war, there were places in which civilian women were actually taught how to fight using bamboo spears in anticipation of war in the mainland.

You know, I really find it ironic (and rather poignant) that the A-bomb fell just 500 meters from Urakami Cathedral, which was once the land of the village chief where the annual fumi-e interrogations had taken place for two centuries. The local Catholics really struggled with the government to allow them to rebuild the church on the same site (instead of leaving it as it was as a historical heritage) post-WWII, it was that vital for them. :frowning:

It always has interested me that Hiroshima and Nagasaki were the two centers of Christianity in Japan - Hiroshima, Protestant, and Nagasaki, Catholic. I’m sure that selecting them as A-bomb targets was unrelated to that fact.

Yes, bombing the two cities did save lives, probably many more Japanese than American lives, for that matter. And it brought the war to a quick end. However, I always have felt that the first target, at least, should have been a military target rather than an ancient city filled with civilians. Of course, we already had killed many thousands of civilians by our carpet bombing o Tokyo and other large cities. 

 A new book or two have come out recently with a somewhat revisionist view of World War II. What I mean is that for many years the carpet bombing the allies did in Germany and Japan had seldom been questioned - killing, perhaps, as many as 100,000 in such cities as Hamburg, Dresden and Tokyo in a single raid. It certainly does present a moral dilemma, and I have (over the years) gained more and respect for those Christians - Amish, Quakers, others - who simply refuse to get involved in war. "Love your enemies" presents a challenge, doesn't it? I have a special admiration for those medics who would not carry guns but went out in the midst of fierce fighting to bring the wounded to safety. If I were young and drafted, I hope I would choose that alternative. I've had it with war, especially modern war, when so many innocent people are slaughtered. How much lifelong pain this inflicts upon those loved ones who manage rto survive.

  One problem is that the truth is the first casulty of war. As patriots, we rush to side with our beloved nation, believing the inevitable propaganda that every nation produces to justify its course of action. I cite Iraq as a modern example. We made such a horrendous blunder to invade Iraq for so many reasons. Among them: diverted our attention from Al Qaeda, our real enemy; led to thousands of deaths, US and Iraqi; led to harsh persecution of Iraqi Christians which still continues (Saddam, as evil as he was, did not persecute Christians); led to sectarian violene within Iraq, which also continues today; increased the influence of Iran and the Shia Muslims; a huge investment of money, one major factor in leading to our present economic crisis; increased hostility toward the US among Muslims; alienated allies who supported us in Afghanistan; divided Americans, overwhelmingly supportive of going after bin Laden; tired Americans of war; etc. I suspect it helped elect Obama as well - for those of you who are anti-Obama. I am politically independent myself, unhappy with both parties.

  "Blessed are the peacemakers". God bless those who are,
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