Israel has declared war on Hamas. But why Hamas and not Gaza? What is Hamas if not the representative of Gaza’s Arabs? Didn’t these Arabs vote Hamas into power? Don’t they continue to support it? Don’t they celebrate when Jews are murdered? Wouldn’t they lynch you and me if they found us alone in an alley?
Is anyone aware of a less innocent population in human history?
And yet, for 40 years now – since the beginning of the First Intifada – Israel’s leaders have refused to crush these bloodthirsty Arabs in battle. They seem almost incapable of doing so at this point. So here’s an idea: Since Israel virtually worships America, why not learn from America how to win a war? The U.S. last won a decisive military victory when Japan surrendered to it on September 2, 1945, leading to 80 years of peace between the two countries. Not a bad outcome.
So how did America do it?
The beginning of the end for Japan came on March 10, 1945, when America launched the deadliest air raid in history. Three hundred B-29 bombers dropped 1,665 tons of bombs over Tokyo, destroying 267,000 buildings, killing 100,000(!) people, and rendering another million homeless.
The E-46 cluster bomb – the weapon of choice in the assault – was designed to cause maximum damage. When it reached within 2,000-2,500 feet of the ground, the bomb released 38 smaller napalm-filled bombs, called M-69s, that exploded 3-5 seconds after landing. “Whatever [the napalm] globules hit – walls, roofs, human skin – they adhered and burned at a temperature of 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit,” writes historian Ian W. Toll in Twilight of the Gods.
The incendiary bombs devastated Tokyo, sparking uncontrollable fires. The heat on the streets was so intense that “citizens spontaneously burst into flames,” writes Bill O’Reilly in his best-selling Killing the Rising Sun. Some of the bombers reported that they could smell burning human flesh thousands of feet in the air.
Military strategists had specifically targeted the Shitamachi (or “low city”) region of Tokyo, deeming it highly flammable (as its houses were constructed of wood and bamboo and packed closely together). And, indeed, by the time the fires died down, an entire section of Tokyo – 16 square miles – had been reduced to “an apocalyptic wasteland,” writes James M. Scott, a Pulitzer Prize finalist, in Black Snow.
General Curtis LeMay, who had ordered the attack, was congratulated by his superiors, and quickly sent his pilots to decimate the Japanese cities of Nagoya, Osaka, and Kobe. And then Kawasaki and Yokohama. By the war’s end, they had firebombed no fewer than 66 Japanese cities using 300 million pounds of explosives. They destroyed an average of 40 percent of each targeted area (or a total of 178 square miles).
“Few questioned the morality of burning Japan’s cities,” Scott writes. Indeed, American media outlets “celebrated LeMay’s nightly destruction.” They had little sympathy for Japan, which had killed tens of thousands of Americans in battle and “as many as 20 million men, women, and children over the course of eight years” in China, writes Scott.
For his part, LeMay said: “I was not happy, but neither was I particularly concerned about civilian casualties…because we knew how the Japanese had treated the Americans – both civilian and military – that they’d captured in places like the Philippines.”
By bombing Japan’s cities, the U.S. hoped to crush Japanese morale and destroy its ability to wage war. In this, America succeeded, with a post-war report finding that the bombings were the “single most important factor” in undermining Japan’s morale. The bombings also ravaged Japan’s war economy by killing workers, “encouraging” other not to show up to work, and destroying homes that often doubled as workplaces.
Yet, Japan refused to give up, seemingly determined to fight to the death. Its leaders launched a series of kamikaze (or suicide) attacks and prepared for an American invasion, calling on every citizen “to kill at least one barbarian invader before dying in turn.” writes Toll. “These preparations proceeded under the new national slogan: ‘The Glorious Death of the 100 Million.’”
LeMay believed additional M-69 bombs would convince Japan to surrender (“If they don’t give up soon, they are a lot dumber than I think,” he wrote to his wife in July 1945), but Truman wasn’t willing to wait any longer. He had a new weapon at his disposal: the atom bomb. Some of America’s top military leaders – including General Dwight D. Eisenhower – didn’t want to use it, knowing its devastating power. But the alternative was invading Japan, which experts estimated would cost several hundred thousand American soldiers their lives.
That price was unacceptable to Truman. He sanctioned using the world’s first atomic bomb.
Dropped on Hiroshima, it killed an estimated 80,000 people. When Japan didn’t surrender, Truman greenlit another bomb. This one, which landed on Nagasaki and killed an additional 50,000 people, finally convinced Japan to wave the white flag. It agreed to surrender – unconditionally.
A poll conducted shortly thereafter found that 85 percent of the American population supported Truman’s decision to drop the atom bombs. Even the ultra-liberal Jimmy Carter publicly voiced his approval as recently as a decade ago.
To a Presbyterian minister who expressed moral misgivings about dropping the bombs, Truman wrote, “The only language [the Japanese] seem to understand is the one we have been using to bombard them. When you have to deal with a beast you have to treat him as a beast. It is most regrettable but nevertheless true.”
All in all, America killed approximately 400,000 Japanese from the air in the final six months of the war. It never had to invade Japan. Yet, the Japanese were crushed. In fact, so utterly defeated were they by the war’s end that when General Douglas MacArthur landed in Japan as conqueror on August 30, he and his staff walked off the plane without their firearms. No one dared touch them.
Today, the U.S. and Japan are close allies.
Elliot Resnick, PhD,is the former chief editor of The Jewish Press, a podcast host, and the author or editor of six books, including, most recently, “America First: The Story of Sol Bloom, the Most Powerful Jew in Congress During the Holocaust.”